Boris Johnson’s plan to mandate proof of vaccination to enter nightclubs and other “crowded venues” from the end of September faces a major backlash as Labour say they do not support part of the proposals.
On Tuesday, ministers confirmed that the government want “higher risk” settings to make use of the NHS COVID Pass – which can prove someone has been fully vaccinated or has tested negative for the virus – over the summer in an attempt to manage the risk of infections.
However, by September proof of double vaccination will become mandatory to enter crowded venues – something ministers had denied was in the offing over recent months.
On Wednesday, Labour confirmed they oppose the use of vaccine certification “for everyday access to venues and services”.
“We need to see the detail of what the government puts forward regarding vaccine passports,” a Labour spokesperson said.
“We oppose the use of COVID vaccination status for everyday access to venues and services. It’s costly, open to fraud and is impractical.
“Being double jabbed doesn’t prove you aren’t carrying the virus. Testing for access to venues would be more efficient, and would give people and businesses more certainty.”
Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said earlier in the week that a negative coronavirus test would soon “no longer be sufficient” proof that a person was COVID-safe.
Speaking in the Commons on the day England’s nightclubs were allowed to open for the first time since March 2020, he said: “By the end of September everyone aged 18 and over will have the chance to receive full vaccination and the additional two weeks for that protection to really take hold.
“So at that point we plan to make full vaccination a condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather.”
He was echoed by the prime minister, who said: “I would remind everybody that some of life’s most important pleasures and opportunities are likely to be increasingly dependent on vaccination.”
Speaking virtually at a news briefing from his period of self-isolation at Chequers, the PM said that he “certainly didn’t want to see” vaccine passports for bars, but will “do what’s necessary to protect the public”.
But speaking to Sky News on Tuesday, business minister Paul Scully said the government are “saying nightclubs and also larger ticketed events as well”.
He clarified that the government has to “work on the definition” of “crowded venues” that will be covered by vaccine passports.
And “a number of” sporting venues are already looking at requiring vaccine passports for entry, Mr Scully said.
Mr Zahawi promised that the plans would be subject to parliamentary scrutiny, and that there would be “appropriate” exemptions for people with a medical condition that means they cannot be vaccinated.
The COVID Pass scheme, run through the NHS app, was initially launched as a way of clearing people as safe to attend trial events such as sports matches, festivals and concerts, or to prove that they are safe to travel abroad.
The PM is also facing backlash on the proposals from MPs on his own backbenches.
Conservative MP Charles Walker told Sky’s All Out Politics that vaccine passports for nightclubs are “way over the top” and he fears the PM’s announcement is the “thin end of the wedge” when it comes to people having to prove their COVID vaccine status to access venues.
“I suspect we will start off with nightclubs and by sometime in the autumn most hospitality venues will require a vaccine passport,” he said.
“We’ll see whether that will stave off lockdowns in the autumn and the winter. I suspect we’ll get both vaccine passports and more lockdowns.”
The night-time industry has also expressed concerns over the plans.
Peter Marks, chief executive of nightclub operator Rekom UK, told Sky News: “Younger guests are 95% of our customers – they won’t be fully vaccinated [by September].
“We won’t be requiring them, otherwise we won’t have anyone in.”
While Sacha Lord, night-time economy adviser for Greater Manchester, said the whole industry was “taken by surprise” by the plans.