A number of representatives of the UK creative industries have written to Prime Minister ‘Boris’ Johnson supporting COVID status certification measures in order to re-open venues without social distancing. However, they have stressed that any such measures should be temporary and not be based solely on whether or not a person has received a COVID-19 vaccination.
Representing the music industry as signatories of the letter are UK Music chief exec Jamie Njoku-Goodwin, Festival Republic boss Melvin Benn, Royal Opera House CEO Alex Beard, opera singer Sarah Connolly, and Music Director of the London Symphony Orchestra Simon Rattle.
Writing to Johnson – as well as Labour Leader Keir Starmer, Liberal Democrats leader Ed Davey, House Of Commons leader of the Scottish National Party Ian Blackford, and House Of Commons leader of Plaid Cymru Liz Saville-Roberts – they say that they “strongly support the government’s ambition to return to full capacity audiences without restrictions as soon as possible”.
They add that they “recognise that this can be only be achieved through gathering evidence that it is safe to remove or lessen restrictions, including looking at how COVID status certification could aid the reduction of social distancing”.
Many people support COVID status certification – whereby audience members must prove their COVID status in order to access a show – as means to open up venues. Though many of those supporters only reluctantly back the proposed measure, seeing it as a necessary evil.
Certification of that kind remains controversial, of course, with claims that it will create a two-tier society with millions potentially locked out of cultural activities in the UK. This would be particularly true if the only way for a person to gain access to venues was to show that they had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
It is with that in mind that the signatories cautiously accept status certification as a means to help revive the cultural industries, and only with some provisos.
“We understand that this approach would involve either proof of vaccination, a negative COVID test or an antibody test to allow access to a venue”, they say. “We are clear that this approach must not rely only on proof of vaccination, and also that it must only be a temporary measure, only used for as long as necessary”.
They add: “We are also clear that this approach must not be discriminatory, should protect privacy, and have clear exit criteria. If all of this holds true, then we are very much supportive of the continued exploration of this possibility to bring life back to normal as soon as possible”.
Under current government plans in England venues will not be allowed to host customers indoors, even with social distancing, before 17 May at the earliest. After that, it is hoped that all current restrictions might be lifted on 21 Jun – although this may only happen if something like status certifications are introduced to ensure the safety of those inside venues.
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