‘Vaccine passport’ plan brought back for nightclubs on day one of ‘freedom’ – and could be needed for football matches or the pub
Nightclubs will bar entry, from the end of September, to unvaccinated customers – in a French-style bid to force the 3 million under 30s who have so far refused to get a jab to do so.
The rule will also apply in “other venues where large crowds gather”, Mr Johnson said and – although he did not name them – he did not rule out football matches or even pubs.
“I certainly don’t want to see passports for pubs,” the prime minister told a press conference – from isolation at Chequers – before adding: “We reserve the right to do what’s necessary to protect the public.”
In a sharp shift to using so-called “vaccine passports”, Mr Johnson said: “Some of life’s most important pleasures and opportunities are likely to be increasingly dependent on vaccination.”
Ministers appear to have been swayed by Emmanuel Macron’s success in persuading around 1 million people to get jabbed after threatening to deny access to restaurants and other places.
Meanwhile, Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser, said it would be “really quite worrying” if the third wave of Covid is not in retreat by September – when schools go back.
He also revealed that around 60 per cent of hospital admissions are double vaccinated people, adding: “And that’s not surprising, because the vaccines are not 100 per cent effective.”
Across the Atlantic, Americans were warned against travelling to the UK at all, because of the surge of the Delta variant, as it was placed on the highest risk level.
Just hours after opening nightclubs – to the dismay of many scientists – Mr Johnson admitted he was concerned about the “continuing risk” they pose, as unjabbed dancers mix closely.
“I don’t want to have to close nightclubs again – as they have elsewhere,” he said, when asked about a rapid U-turn which shut them again in the Netherlands.
But he announced: “By the end of September, when all over 18s will have had the chance to be double jabbed, we are planning to make full vaccination the condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather.
“Proof of a negative test will no longer be sufficient,” the prime minister said, while insisting: “We want people to be able to take back their freedoms as they can today.”
The Night Time Industries Association reacted with fury, condemning “an absolute shambles,” and “yet another chaotic U-turn”.
“So, ‘Freedom Day’ for night clubs lasted around 17 hours,” said Michael Kill, the organisation’s chief executive.
He warned of “difficulties enforcing the system and a reduction in spontaneous consumers, as well as being put at a competitive disadvantage with pubs and bars”.
The music trade body LIVE echoed the fear that clubs must “not be treated any differently to other similar-sized hospitality businesses such as bars and restaurants”.
The Liberal Democrats also attacked the move, home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael MP saying: “Vaccine passports are Covid ID cards: unworkable, expensive and divisive.”
But Mr Johnson pointed to figures showing that 83 per cent of 30 to 50-year-olds have been jabbed – but only 65 per cent of 18 to 30-year-olds.
In further changes, the prime minister also announced that more key workers will escape the requirement to self-isolate if named as the close contact of a Covid case.
Fully vaccinated people working in transport, food and medicine supply, the power grid, utilities such as water, and immigration control, could be granted exemptions, he suggested.
And children aged 12 to 15 with severe neuro-disabilities, Down’s syndrome, immunosuppression, or severe learning disabilities, will be vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.
But Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said he had accepted the advice of the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. which has ruled out vaccination of healthy children for now.
At the press conference, Mr Johnson dismissed criticism of Sunday’s U-turn which saw a plan for him, and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, to swerve isolation rules dropped, amid public anger.
Denying he considered himself above the rules – following the aborted plan for him to use a trial to continue working at Downing Street – he said: “I absolutely didn’t think that.”