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UK vaccines minister defends new COVID Passport requirement for clubs

By | Published on Monday 6 September 2021


The UK government’s vaccines minister has defended the decision to force nightclubs and some other indoor venues in England to start checking the so called COVID passports of all customers from the end of the month, arguing that it is the best way to ensure that the night-time sector isn’t subject to any future COVID-related shutdowns.

The clubbing sector – and a number of MPs – have been very critical of that decision. Since COVID rules lifted in July and clubs could reopen, it has been left to each venue to decide whether to check the COVID vaccine status of customers at the door. However, as those rules lifted, Prime Minister ‘Boris’ Johnson said that it would become compulsory for clubs to confirm punters were vaccinated from October, allowing a couple of months for clubbers to get their vaccines.

There had been speculation that that policy might not actually go into effect as a result of criticism in Parliament. However, last week a spokesperson for Johnson insisted nothing had changed, and that clubs would need to check COVID Passports from the end of the month.

Despite being critical about the idea of vaccine passports on the BBC’s ‘Andrew Marr Show’ earlier this year, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi yesterday said on the same programme that now was the right time to force certain venues to check the vaccine status of their customers.

He said: “When the evidence that you are presented is so clear-cut – and [you] want to make sure the industry doesn’t have to go through [an] open-shut, open-shut sort of strategy – then the right thing to do is to introduce [the vaccine passport requirement] by the end of September when all over eighteen year olds have had their two jabs”.

“One thing that we have learnt is that in large gatherings of people, especially indoors, the virus tends to spike and spread”, he added. Though reps for the night-time sector dispute that clubs and other venues are any more likely to result in spikes than other kinds of businesses, providing certain safety measures are employed.

They’d also note that such measures are less likely to be instigated at unofficial events and private parties, which will likely increase if too many restrictions stop people from going to clubs and other night-time entertainment venues.

Last week the Night Time Industries Association said: “The government needs to listen to real operators who can give them real feedback on these challenges [because] these policy decisions will have a catastrophic impact on people’s livelihoods and careers”.

Ministers in Scotland have confirmed that similar COVID Passport requirements will be introduced there later this month. It’s thought that Wales won’t follow suit, while it’s not yet clear what position the executive in Northern Ireland will take.