Proof of full vaccination will be required as a condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues from the autumn, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi has said.
Speaking to the House of Commons on Monday – on the day England’s nightclubs were allowed to open for the first time since March 2020 – Mr Zahawi said a negative Covid-19 test would soon “no longer be sufficient” proof that a person was Covid-safe.
He urged businesses to “use the NHS Covid pass in the weeks ahead”, adding: “We will be keeping a close watch on how it is used by venues and reserve the right to mandate if necessary.”
He continued: “By the end of September everyone aged 18 and over will have the chance to receive full vaccination and the additional two weeks for that protection to really take hold.
“So at that point we plan to make full vaccination a condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather.
“Proof of a negative test will no longer be sufficient.”
Boris Johnson warned that “some of life’s most important pleasures and opportunities are likely to be increasingly dependent on vaccination” as he reiterated the plans in the Downing Street press conference.
He added: “I don’t want to have to close nightclubs again as they have elsewhere, but it does mean nightclubs need to do the socially responsible thing and make use of the NHS Covid pass.
“I should serve notice now that by the end of September, when all over-18s will have had their 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.”
Mr Zahawi promised that the plans would be subject to parliamentary scrutiny, and that there would be “appropriate” exemptions for people with a medical condition that means they cannot be vaccinated.
“We will always look at the evidence available and do all we can to ensure people can continue to do the things they love,” he added.
Jeremy Hunt, Conservative chairman of the Health and Social Care Committee, questioned why the Government was waiting until the end of September to implement the plans.
“If we’re going to introduce Covid vaccine passports for nightclubs by the end of September, which I support, why are we waiting until then, giving more weight to the concerns of people who want to go to nightclubs, than the additional extra cases waiting two months is likely to cause at a time when that growth in new cases is of such a concern?” he asked in the Commons.
Mr Zahawi replied: “By the end of September, 18-year-olds would have received their second dose and we will work with the industry to make sure we get this right now in terms of working with them with the Covid pass and of course in September while we collate the evidence.”
Michael Kill, chief executive officer of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), described the plans as an “absolute shambles”.
“So, ‘freedom day’ for nightclubs lasted around 17 hours then,” he said.
“The announcement from the Prime Minister that Covid passports will be made mandatory for nightclubs in September comes after his Health Secretary said only one week ago that they would not be compulsory. What an absolute shambles.
“Leaving aside the fact that this is yet another chaotic U-turn that will leave nightclubs who have been planning for reopening for months will now have to make more changes to the way they operate – this is still a bad idea.
“80% of nightclubs have said they do not want to implement Covid passports, worrying about difficulties with enforcing the system and a reduction in spontaneous consumers, as well as being put at a competitive disadvantage with pubs and bars that aren’t subject to the same restrictions and yet provide similar environments.”
Excited clubbers joined long queues as nightclubs reopened across England at one minute past midnight on Monday.
But chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance warned nightclubs could be “potential super spreading events”.
He told the Downing Street press conference: “Right the way across the world we’ve seen that nightclubs and venues where you’ve got lots of people indoors, crowded together, are a focus for potential super spreading events, and that has also been seen in terms of what’s happened in Holland and Israel where nightclubs opened, and you saw a big increase in cases.
“So I think it’s… there’s no question that that is an environment in which spreading is easier, you’ve got lots of people quite close together, you’ve got the environment in which spreading becomes easier.
“And I would expect that with opening of nightclubs, we’ll continue to see an increase in cases and we will see outbreaks related to specific nightclubs as well.”