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Fewer than 20% of night-time businesses intend to use COVID passports

By | Published on Friday 16 July 2021


Fewer than 20% of night-time businesses in England will ask customers to provide COVID status information in order to gain entry to their establishments once current coronavirus restrictions are lifted on Monday. This is despite government advice to do so.

According to a survey of 250 businesses conducted by the Night Time Industries Association, 82.7% said that they would not be asking customers to prove that they have been fully vaccinated or recently had a negative COVID test. There are a range of reasons for this.

Many stress that implementing such COVID checking systems with just one week’s notice isn’t feasible, and that – because such checks are not an actual legal requirement – there was a high likelihood of conflict between customers and door staff when any checks were made.

Also, the key demographic of this type of business – those between eighteen and 30 – have not yet had the chance to receive both vaccine injections, with many choosing not to have the vaccine at all. So the majority would have to have regular COVID tests to get access to clubs and venues, which would make attending those clubs and venues much less attractive.

When confirming on Monday that most remaining COVID restrictions would lift in England next week, the UK government said it would not obligate any businesses to check a customer’s COVID status before granting admission. However Prime Minister ‘Boris’ Johnson then said: “We’re urging nightclubs and other venues with large crowds to make use of the NHS COVID Pass – which shows proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or natural immunity – as a means of entry”.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Sajid Javid added that “if sufficient measures are not taken to limit infection, the government will consider mandating the NHS COVID Pass in certain venues at a later date”. All of which is confusing for night-time businesses and their customers – either COVID passes are required or they’re not, and yet another confusing fudge from government is no use to anybody.

Some see the statements from Johnson and Javid as a ruse by ministers to placate the lockdown critics within the Conservative Party by removing COVID rules in the short term, while getting ready to blame clubs and venues down the line if their new policy results in a dangerous new surge in the virus.

In a statement, NTIA CEO Michael Kill says: “We are hugely concerned that the government has caused yet more confusion by suggesting that COVID passports are not mandatory while, at the same time, details reveal clearly that this could well be the case in future”.

“Government guidance released this week has given businesses less than a week to make what would be a major change to their operating model”, he goes on. “This type of ambiguous communication is creating hesitation amongst customers and operators. At this rate, ‘freedom day’ will be a false dawn for a nightlife sector characterised by chaos”.

“The government should recognise explicitly that COVID passports are just not viable for large swathes of the night time economy, as their own internal report into the matter concluded”, he continues.

“My worry here is that they intend to hide behind this ‘guidance’ when cases rise and they are forced to change tack, and blame it all on individual businesses and consumers for not taking the steps to stay safe. In fact, this sector takes the safety of its staff and customers very seriously and wants to be able to reopen safely, but is once again at sea because of a lack of leadership from the government”.