Vaccine passports could be forced on nightclubs, stadiums, gigs and sports events at just a week's notice this winter under a dramatic 'Plan B' unveiled the government.
Sajid Javid confirmed venues will not have to ask punters to prove double-jabbed status – for now – after a furious backlash.
But the Health Secretary revealed the passports will be front and centre of a 'Plan B' if his winter plan is not enough to contain the virus.
The government said mandatory vaccine passports could be activated at just a week’s notice if they are brought in as part of a Plan B.
And for the first time the government published a full list of venues that would have passports apply to them.
Indoor events with more than 500 people, large sporting events and music festivals will all be off limits for the unvaccinated under his "Plan B", Mr Javid confirmed.
Industry chiefs have reacted with anger, branding it "absurd" that passports may be brought in with little warning.
People would be required to show they had been double jabbed to be allowed into nightclubs
North News & Pictures northnews.co.uk)
Earlier this year the Prime Minister said vaccine passports would come into effect in September.
On Sunday Mr Javid made a sudden U-turn, promising not to introduce them this month. But he said the Government will reserve the option in future if needed – branding it part of "Plan B".
He said that the evidence to support vaccine passports is "not there" currently, and added it hopes it never is.
But Mr Javid said the possibility is being kept "in reserve" in case spiralling cases make action necessary.
The government's plan states: "Taking into account the latest data on the state of the epidemic, mandatory vaccine‑only certification will not be implemented from the end of September.
"It would, however, be part of the Government’s Plan B if the data suggests action is required to prevent unsustainable pressure on the NHS. Mandating vaccine-only certification would be preferable to closing venues entirely or reimposing social distancing."
Under Plan B, the Government expects that mandatory vaccine-only certification would be introduced for visitors to:
- All nightclubs
- Indoor, crowded settings with 500 or more attendees where those attendees are likely to be in close proximity to people from other households, such as music venues or large receptions
- Outdoor, crowded settings with 4,000 or more attendees where those attendees are likely to be in close proximity to people from other households, such as outdoor festivals
- Any settings with 10,000 or more attendees, such as large sports and music stadia
Plan B would not see people barred from places of worship, weddings, funerals, protests and "mass participation sporting events".
People who have not been double jabbed would be barred from large sporting events under Plan B
The plan continues: "If Plan B is implemented, it could be at short notice in response to concerning data.
"Therefore, in order to help businesses prepare their own contingency plans, the Government will shortly publish more detail about the proposed certification regime that would be introduced as part of Plan B."
Following the announcement, Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), said: "Today, businesses up and down the country are once again thinking they may have to make an enormous and detrimental change to their operating model in the future, if infection rates increase.
“The idea too, that a vast and logistically challenging policy can be kept in ‘reserve’ and implemented at one week's notice, as has been reported, is absurd. It is no way to treat a sector that has already been so badly hit. Sometimes it feels like ministers have no idea what it is like to run a business, let alone the types of businesses we represent.”
It comes after days of confusion and mixed messaging which has characterised the government's response to the pandemic.
On Sunday he appeared to confirm a U-turn, saying that the passports had been scrapped.
Mr Javid told the BBC on Sunday: "We shouldn't be doing things for the sake of it."
And he added: "I'm pleased to say we will not be going ahead with plans."
Vaccine passports are not being introduced – for now
AFP via Getty Images)
But he had earlier told Sky's Trevor Philips that no decision had been made, and Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi last week appeared to confirm the vaccine passport plans.
Mr Zahawi said it "pains me" to implement something that "goes against the DNA" of the Prime Minister and himself.
Labour has slammed Mr Javid's mixed messages on Covid passports. Deputy leader Angela Rayner said: "The government’s approach to Covid passports has been shambolic from the start.
"There has never been any clarity from ministers about what vaccine passports were supposed to achieve, how they would work and what was expected from businesses and workers.
"Days ago, the vaccine minister stood before Parliament to confirm the introduction of Covid passports and stress their importance, now they've been scrapped.
"This is the culmination of a summer of chaos from ministers and they urgently need to get a grip before winter."