The government has abandoned plans to implement a vaccine passports when people visit pubs bars and restaurants in what is described a huge boost for the industry as it prepares its staged return to full reopening.
The new “Covid status certification” scheme will only be applied to mass gatherings and indoor events like football matches and nightclubs. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce that a new NHS app confirming that the holder has been vaccinated, a recent negative test or Covid-19 in the previous six months.
Pubs, bars and restaurants, are able to reopen outdoors-only a week tomorrow in England (April 12), and will be able to admit anyone who follows existing guidelines on social distancing and mask-wearing.
The government’s reversal followed an angry backlash from 72 MPs who branded the idea “divisive and discriminatory”. The cross party group included former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and senior Tory Iain Duncan Smith who launched a campaign opposing Covid passports, with former Tory former ministers including Esther McVey, Nus Ghani, Mark Harper and Harriett Baldwin also backing the campaign.
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, who also backed the campaign, expressing concerns at the ‘creeping authoritarianism’ from Downing Street.
He said: ‘As we start to get this virus properly under control we should start getting our freedoms back, vaccine passports – essentially Covid ID cards – take us in the other direction.’
The campaign has been backed by Big Brother Watch, Liberty, the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) and Privacy International.
The vaccine passports row exploded late March when ministers confirmed they were considering the idea, following repeated denials.
The PM then suggested to MPs that they could eventually be needed to visit the pub. He defended the idea, saying ‘there’s definitely going to be a world in which international travel will use vaccine passports’.
However, following the backlash Boris Johnson will tomorrow announce his determination to press ahead with a “vaccine certification” system only for larger venues from next month, “We are doing everything we can to enable the reopening of our country so people can return to the events, travel and other things they love as safely as possible, and these reviews will play an important role in allowing this to happen.” He said.
Liverpool which suffered high infection rates in 2020 will be a major test centre for the opening up of the rest of the country, with four pilot events being held at a comedy club, a cinema, a nightclub and a business conference arena from next week.
A number of pilot events have been planned to test the efficacy of the policy.
Some fans will be allowed at Wembley for the Carabao Cup final on April 25, the FA Cup final on May 15 and a semi-final on April 18.
The World Snooker Championship in Sheffield and a mass participation run at Hatfield, Herts, are also involved.
Pubs will open their beer gardens on April 12 and will be able to welcome customers inside from May 17.
Commenting ahead of tomorrow’s announcements UKHospitality chief executive Kate Nichols said on social media that businesses “needed to hear”:
confirmation of reopening dates for April & May for planning
lifting all social distancing restrictions in June -not conditional on passports in pubs & restaurants