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COVID Passports remain in UK government’s Plan B for tackling the next phase of the pandemic

By | Published on Wednesday 15 September 2021


The UK government yesterday said that – while clubs and events in England will not be forced to check the COVID Passports of all customers from next month – that requirement could be introduced with just a week’s notice if any future surge in COVID cases puts too much pressure on the NHS.

Since most remaining COVID lockdown rules lifted in England in July, allowing clubs to reopen and full capacity shows to resume, it has been up to each individual venue and promoter to decide whether to check the vaccination or COVID status of customers at the door.

However, as those rules lifted back in July, Prime Minister ‘Boris’ Johnson said that, from October, clubs and some other venues would be required to check the COVID Passports of punters, only allowing in those who have been double vaccinated.

But, amid criticism of that plan from the night time sector and plenty of MPs, over the summer some in government seemed to doubt that any such requirement would actually come into force. Johnson’s COVID Passport commitment, some said, was just more bullshit from the Bullshitter In Chief.

Not so, said the Bullshitter’s spokesperson earlier this month, insisting that the COVID Passport plan was going ahead. And to prove it, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi popped up on BBC One’s ‘Andrew Marr Show’ to defend the policy. Except, a week later Health Secretary Sajid Javid then appeared on the same telly programme to confirm that the plan had now definitely been abandoned.

Nonetheless, rumours circulated at the start of the week that the government was, in fact, still considering the COVID Passport requirement. However, it was confirmed yesterday, that’s as part of a Plan B that is now in place in case there’s another surge of serious COVID cases requiring hospitalisation over the winter months.

Plan A, currently being employed, is to persuade everyone to get vaccinated and keep taking COVID tests. Plan B, if needed, could involve COVID Passports, and the return of compulsory face-masks and official guidance to work from home if you can. The government said yesterday that those Plan B measures could be introduced with just a week’s notice.

A formal statement on the latest plans states: “If Plan B is implemented, it could be at short notice in response to concerning data. Therefore, in order to help businesses prepare their own contingency plans, the government will shortly publish more detail about the proposed certification regime that would be introduced as part of Plan B. The government would seek to give businesses at least one week’s notice before mandatory vaccine certification came into force”.

Reps for the night time sector continue to oppose any COVID Passport requirements in law, and yesterday criticised the government for keeping vaccination checks in its Plan B. Especially given the speed with which that plan could be employed this winter.

Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, says: “On Sunday, the sector was rejoicing that our campaigning efforts had paid off and that the policy around COVID Passports was dead. 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 … is absurd. 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”.

He concludes: “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”.