Vaccine passports will be compulsory to enter crowded venues from late September, the prime minister has announced.
In an extraordinary U-turn, Boris Johnson said that from the autumn, once all adults have had the chance to receive two jabs, Covid vaccination certificates would be made mandatory for crowded venues in England.
The prime minister made explicit reference to nightclubs in his announcement and did not specify which other venues would be affected. However, the prime minister refused to rule out the introduction of vaccine passports for pubs – and the announcement raises question marks over large business events such as conferences, trade shows and gala dinners.
Speaking from Chequers, where he is currently self-isolating, Johnson said: “I should serve notice now that by the end of September, when all over-18s will have had their chance to be double-jabbed, we are planning to make full vaccination the condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather.”
The move comes amid the government’s growing concerns about vaccine uptake among young people, with around 35 per cent of 18-30 year-olds currently unvaccinated.
“Some of life’s most important pleasures and opportunities are likely to be increasingly dependent on vaccination,” added Johnson, expressing concern about the “continuing risk posed by nightclubs”.
Speaking alongside the PM, England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam highlighted the dangers of unvaccinated people gathering in crowded indoor venues, saying that if the NHS struggles to cope over the summer, the government’s scientific advisors would have to make recommendations, which could focus on “close contact indoors”.
The PM’s announcement summoned an immediate backlash from politicians from all sides.
Former Brexit secretary David Davis said: “Vaccination is sensible. But it is entirely wrong to try to coerce people into having them.”
Speaking after vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi announced the news to the Commons, Tory MP Mark Harper, who leads the lockdown-sceptic Covid Recovery Group, said: “I don’t welcome the minister’s statement, particularly vaccine passports for crowded venues, which is effectively moving to compulsory vaccination. I do however look forward to the debate and the vote in parliament when he will bring forward the evidence because I don’t think that is supported by the pilots that have taken place.”
Justin Madders, Labour’s shadow health minister, said: “This make-it-up-as-you-go-along government is causing more chaos when what people and businesses need is certainty. How can it be safe to go to nightclubs now, with no protective measures, if in September it will require double jab status? It makes no sense.”
Lib Dem home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael said: “Vaccine passports are Covid ID cards: unworkable, expensive and divisive.”
The announcement also provoked fury from the hospitality sector. Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, called it an “absolute shambles” and added: “The government’s own report into vaccine passports found they were more trouble than they’re worth – so what could possibly explain the about-turn, just as millions across the UK experience their first taste of a night out in a year and a half?”
A desire to travel led Holly Patrick to the business meetings and events world and she’s never looked back. Holly takes a particular interest in event sustainability and creating a diverse and inclusive industry. When she’s not working, she can be found rolling skating along Brighton seafront listening to an eclectic playlist, featuring the likes of Patti Smith, Sean Paul, and Arooj Aftab.