Vaccine passports: club and theatre chiefs speak of relief as Covid checks shelved in England

Scotland will introduce Covid vaccine passports from 1 October, but plans have been scrapped in England following criticism from MPs

Plans to introduce Covid passports for entry into nightclubs and crowded venues have been scrapped by the government just days after it was confirmed the policy would be going ahead.

Despite defending the proposals to sceptical MPs, the government made a U-turn on the plans with the Health Secretary stating the idea had been shelved.

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The policy would have required members of the public to show proof they had received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine to gain access to clubs and events in England.

Sajid Javid said he “never liked the idea” of showing papers to be allowed to carry out an everyday activity, but warned the plans will be kept “in reserve as a potential option”.

Relief as passport plans shelved

The plans to shelve the vaccine passport plans has come as a welcome relief for club owners and entertainment industry professionals alike, who were concerned about the impact of the rule on their business.

Carlos Shepherd, director of the LIT bar and club in Clapham, said the restriction would not only have meant increasing staffing to manage the checks, but the venue risked losing business as locals threatened to boycott.

Mr Shepherd explained: “We would have had to have more door staff to check people in which would have created a hold up, which in turn creates issues with local residents.

“We have already had irate messages from people asking our position and threatening to boycott our venue if we comply with the regulations.

“It would have undoubtedly deterred people from coming.”

Mr Shepherd said that while checking vaccine status would provide some reassurance in knowing the venue is more Covid-safe, he felt the rule would not eliminate the threat of closure and called for a more “common sense” approach, using antigen tests instead.

He added: “It’s been shown that the vaccine does not prevent you from being infected or transmitting the virus.

“It is just another half thought scheme from a government who has no moral compass.”

Club and bar director Carlos Shepherd was against the plans to introduce vaccine passports (Photo: Carlos Shepherd)

Regular club-goer Anson Chu, 33, from Leeds, was also firmly against the plans coming into force, despite being fully vaccinated himself.

He explained: “Personally I am against introducing passports because it is a matter of choice whether to take the vaccine, so it would just be undermining that freedom by imposing the plans.

“If this was going to be the case that passports were needed, the government should have just made the vaccine mandatory in the first place.

“But until there has been sufficient research to support its effect with minimal side effects, I think it should remain a choice.

“All of the age groups who are prone to death from the virus are now vaccinated, so there is no reason why passports should be required or why further restrictions are needed.”

‘Vaccination should be a personal choice’

While plans for vaccine passports have been shelved in England, those based in Scotland will face stricter measures, with the Scottish Government approving their introduction last week.

A decision on rules in Wales and Northern Ireland is still yet to be confirmed.

The different stance between the devolved nations means that some members of the public once again face tougher rules than others, sparking criticism that people are being denied certain freedoms.

Alice Woods, managing director of The Dreamboys dance troupe, tours theatre venues all across the UK and warned the differing rules across the UK is already having an impact on demand.

Ms Woods said: “We have already seen that in venues requiring covid passport demand is suppressed due to the added planning involved for audiences and guests to attend which is a shame.

“Many touring productions like ours are trying to push their Scottish dates back which will have the effect of slowing Scotland’s overall economic recovery.

“As a cast and crew we are all fully protected against the virus so are not concerned about any further interruptions to our tour, but with regards to audiences being vaccinated, we firmly believe vaccination should be a personal choice.

“It would be very un-British to ask people to show paperwork to enter certain spaces, not to mention discrimination against an already suffering industry, and logistically a nightmare to implement, along with added costs and further pressures to staff.

“At this stage in the pandemic, we believe it is far more appropriate to allow people to make their own choice whether they feel comfortable attending larger events.”

Ms Woods welcomed the decison to scrap vaccine passports but warned the entertainment industry needs more support (Photo: Alice Woods)

Ms Woods added that the support given to theatres and nightclubs by the government has been “nothing short of abysmal”, with the industry “left at the bottom of the pile”.

And while she welcomed the decision to abandon the passport plans in England, describing it as “absolutely the right choice”, she called on the government to do more to help the entertainment industry over the coming months.

She said: “Heading into the winter we’d like to see a commitment to the furlough scheme if further lockdowns are needed and additional support, such as an extension of the VAT rate reduction and repayment terms for CBILS loans to be automatically extended.

“This would make a vital difference to the cash flow of entertainment businesses if there is further pandemic-related disruption.”

Could vaccine passports still be introduced?

Mr Javid has warned that rising hospital admissions and “unsustainable” pressure on the NHS could see vaccine passports introduced in England during the winter.

The passes would be used in settings including nightclubs, indoor venues with 500 or more attendees in close proximity, outdoor settings with 4,000 or more people, and any settings with 10,000 or more people.

The measure would form part of the government’s ‘Plan B’ for tackling Covid-19 this winter, alongside mandatory face masks and working from home.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it would be unwise to rule out imposing mandatory vaccine certification in the future, saying it could save businesses from closure.

He said: “We do not see the need now to proceed, for instance, with mandatory certification.

“It’s just not sensible to rule out completely this kind of option now when we must face the fact that it might still make the difference between keeping business open at full capacity or not.”

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