London’s night time industry is looking for clarity from the government over its intentions regarding vaccine passports.
On Sunday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced plans to ditch vaccine passports, for access into nightclubs and large events in England, saying “we shouldn’t be doing things for the sake of it.”
However, days later the government revealed its Covid proposals for autumn and winter, which include a ‘Plan A’ and ‘Plan B’.
In the event of ‘Plan B’ coming into effect, so-called vaccine passports would be required for entry into a number of different settings, including nightclubs, indoor spaces with more than 500 attendees and outdoor locations with more than 4,000 people.
‘Plan B’ could be brought in at short notice as a response to “concerning data.”
‘No way to treat a sector that’s already been so badly hit’
This news has caused anxiety for night time industry leaders.
Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association said that businesses need certainty.
“On Sunday, the sector was rejoicing that our campaigning efforts had paid off and that the policy around Covid Passports was dead,” he said.
“Today, businesses up and down the country are once again thinking they may have to make an enormous and detrimental change to their operating model in the future, if infection rates increase.
“The idea too, that a vast and logistically challenging policy can be kept in ‘reserve’ and implemented at one week’s notice, as has been reported, is absurd.”
The night time economy was one of the last sectors to re-open after the pandemic and industry members worry that Covid passports will drive away business.
“It is no way to treat a sector that has already been so badly hit. Sometimes it feels like ministers have no idea what it is like to run a business, let alone the types of businesses we represent.
“We have already seen the impact of the potential implementation of Covid Passports, with an estimated 30% drop in trade, ticket sales flatlining for events and workforce displacing to other industries with less stringent restrictions. This policy would do so much damage."
“The government needs to recognise the sacrifices made by businesses within hospitality and the night time economy against the public health crisis, being one of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic.
“Businesses need certainty if they are to have the confidence to invest and rebuild our industry. To give them this certainty, the government should be clear that vaccine passports have been scrapped completely and aren’t part of any ‘Plan B’."
‘We have no idea about the details’
Luke Laws, Operations Manager at London’s Fabric nightclub said that vaccine passports would cause financial disaster.
"This is an industry that was shut throughout all of Covid, and had no industry-specific support. I’d say it isn’t struggling to get to its feet, it’s struggling to get onto its knees. I imagine financially this will be a disaster," he said.
"We have no idea about the details or how it’s meant to be implemented, how you check, how it’s enforced, what records you need to keep. We haven’t had anything.”
LondonWorld contacted the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy for comment.
Other measures the government have unveiled to deal with the expected increase in Covid case numbers over autumn and winter include Covid booster jabs for over-50s, younger adults with health conditions and frontline health and social care workers.
Vaccines will also be offered to 12-15 year olds and unvaccinated people continue to be encouraged to get their jab.
If these initial “Plan A” steps are insufficient in easing pressure from the NHS, the government will re- introduce compulsory face coverings in some settings and working from home.
Meanwhile in Scotland, from 1 October, all over-18s will need to provide evidence of their vaccine status at nightclubs and other venues.