Landlords and brewers today revolted over plans for vaccine passports for pubs as it emerged hospitality venues could be allowed to bar customers who cannot prove they have had a Covid jab or a negative test.
Boris Johnson has told MPs that landlords might be given powers to impose tough entry requirements on drinkers – and Government sources confirmed this was part of an official review of ‘vaccine passports’.
But industry bosses said the idea was ‘absurd’ and ‘unworkable’ and signalled they would not ask customers for proof that they had been inoculated or were clear of coronavirus.
Among them was Jonathan Neame, chief executive of the Kent-based Shepherd Neame pub group, who said he would not make having had a coronavirus vaccine a mandatory condition for people to enter his pubs.
However, Peter Marks, chief executive of the Deltic Group, which is Britain’s largest nightclub operator, said young people would ‘probably accept’ the idea because they already carry ID to get into his venues.
It comes as an exclusive poll for MailOnline found 59 per cent of people would support and 19 per cent would oppose the use of vaccine passports by businesses such as pubs.
The study of 1,500 eligible voters in Britain was carried out by Redfield and Wilton Strategies yesterday. As a further 98 deaths and 5,605 cases of Covid were reported:
The UK and the European Commission said they were working together to improve their relationship over the pandemic;The joint statement came after Brussels published details of a plan to restrict jab exports to Britain;Angela Merkel apologised to Germans after reversing an Easter lockdown announced only 24 hours earlier;England’s top doctor called on over-50s to book a jab while they still could access one;India said it was blocking all major exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine;Mr Johnson warned that tougher border measures could be introduced ‘very soon’ for arrivals from France;MPs prepared to vote on the extension of emergency coronavirus powers for several months;A study revealed that seven in ten Covid patients still suffer debilitating symptoms five months after being discharged from hospital.
Mr Neame, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, said: ‘The whole essence of a pub is that they are diverse and inclusive environments, where everybody, and families in particular, are extremely welcome.
Faversham-based brewer Shepherd Neame has 320 pubs in the South East, including the Old Neptune in Whitstable, Kent
Deltic Group, which is Britain’s largest nightclub operator, owns Pryzm nightclub in Kingston, South West London
‘I mean imagine a scene where a family is reconnecting for the first time after this crisis, where grandpa’s forgotten his vaccination certificate, mum is pregnant, and the kids are too young to have had it yet.
‘Who’s going to make the judgment on the door to turn away who or what on that occasion? I also think… there are some issues with discrimination.
How a coronavirus vaccine passport for Britons could look
‘I think it’s absolutely fine to exclude people where there is a situation of bad behaviour or drunkenness, and that’s already enshrined in law, but if you’re going to exclude people for what they are, or what they have not done, that’s a wholly different issue which does touch on discrimination, civil liberties, and in this case data protection issues.’
Mr Neame also said making vaccination a mandatory prerequisite to attend a pub is ‘a fairly poorly thought-out idea’ which could lead to young staff having to deal with intimidation from customers.
He told BBC Radio 4: ‘I’m very concerned about the pressure we put on our young people – 50 per cent of people (working) in pubs are under 25 – you’re going to force them to make some very challenging judgments, because they’re not qualified or trained as door staff, as they might be in the nightclub sector.
‘So those people might therefore be subject to intimidation, if people think they are being unfairly discriminated against, and then there’s the question about who’s going to enforce this – are police going to do random checks? I don’t think so, I don’t think that’s the society we want.’
He added: ‘This is a fraught with difficulty I think, and it is, in my view, a fairly poorly thought-out idea at this stage.’
Pub landlady Mop Draper, from The Compass Inn in Winsor, Hampshire, said the plan was ‘unfair’, telling ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘You are excluding probably everybody under the age of 40 because by April 12 not everybody’s going to have had their vaccine, so you really minimise how many people will be having to come out to the pub.’
Boris Johnson, pictured in the House of Commons yesterday, suggested that some pubs might require vaccine certificates
But she added: ‘I would later on, when nearly everybody in the country has had their vaccine, it would be a sensible thing to do, because you’ve got to protect all your staff, and obviously your customers, but you can’t possibly at the moment because you’re excluding too many people.’
How will lockdown be eased in the UK until end of June?
Step One Part One: March 8
From March 8, all pupils and students returned to schools and colleges across England.
So-called wrap-around childcare was also allowed to resume, paving the way for after and before school clubs to reopen.
People were allowed to meet one other person outside for recreation, for example, to have a picnic or to meet for coffee.
Care home residents were be able to have one regular named visitor.
The Government’s stay at home order remained in place, with travel for non-essential purposes still banned.
Step One Part Two: March 29
From March 29, outdoor gatherings of up to six people or a larger group from up to two households will be allowed. These gatherings will be allowed to happen in private gardens.
Outdoor sports like tennis and basketball will be allowed to reopen and people will also be able to take part in formally organised outdoor sports.
It is at this point that the Government’s stay at home guidance will end, to be replaced by ministers encouraging people to ‘stay local’.
However, the Government is expected not to define what constitutes local, instead choosing to rely on people using their common sense to decide on journeys.
People will still be told to work from home wherever possible while international travel will still be banned unless it is for essential purposes.
Step Two: April 12
Non-essential retail will be allowed to reopen as well as personal care premises like hairdressers, barbers and nail salons.
Public buildings like libraries, museums and art galleries will be allowed to welcome back customers.
Meanwhile, hospitality venues and outdoor attractions like theme parks will be given the green light to reopen in some form.
However, there will still be rules on household mixing: Essentially any activity which involves being indoors will be restricted to members of the same household.
Gyms and swimming pools will also reopen from April 12 but only on the basis that people go on their own or with their own household.
Pubs and restaurants will be able to reopen but at this point they will only be able to have customers outdoors.
The Government will not be bringing back the old requirement for people to order a substantial meal with alcohol while the old 10pm curfew will be ditched.
All customers at hospitality venues will also have to be seated when they order food or drink, with ordering at the bar prohibited.
Campsites and holiday lets where indoor facilities are not shared with other households can also reopen but trips must be restricted a single household.
Funerals will be allowed to continue with up to 30 people, while the rules on wedding receptions will be eased to allow the number of guests to increase from six to 15.
Step Three: May 17
The two household and rule of six requirements for outdoor gatherings will be ditched but gatherings of more than 30 people in places like parks will still be banned.
Crucially, mixing indoors will be allowed again. The rule of six or a larger group from up to two households will be allowed to meet.
However, this will be kept under review by ministers to see if rules could be relaxed still further.
This is also the point at which pubs and restaurants and other hospitality venues will be able to open indoors, with the rule of six and two household limit in place. But groups meeting outdoors at pubs will be allowed to be bigger.
Entertainment venues like cinemas and children’s play areas will be able to reopen, as will hotels and B&Bs. Indoor adult sports groups and exercise classes can also reopen.
Changes will also be made to sporting and performance events in indoor venues with a capacity of 1,000 people or half full
However Mr Marks told BBC Radio 4: ‘It could work for us, strangely. I know a lot of publicans wouldn’t agree with me because they would hate to have this put on their toes, as it were.
‘But for us, our demographic would probably accept it. It’s a young customer base for us. They already walk around with ID such as driving licence and passports to get into a lot of our venues, and I don’t think they’d have a problem with it.’I’d have one other problem though, and that is that isn’t this going to stick another six to eight weeks on before we get chance to open? But I think it’s a market forces thing for us, to be honest.’
Yesterday, Mr Johnson told the MPs that vaccine certification should not be ‘totally alien to us’ – a stance at odds with statements from some of his ministers that Covid passports were ‘discriminatory’.
The development comes just as the vaccine rollout starts to slow because of supply problems. Younger people now face a longer wait and some inoculation centres are already indicating they will close temporarily next month.
Today, Labour shadow business secretary Ed Miliband said ministers should not leave the use of vaccine passports to the ‘discretion’ of pub landlords if they thought it was the right move for public health.
Put to him on ITV’s Good Morning Britain that scientists might recommend the rollout of vaccine passports to encourage people to take up the offer of a jab, Mr Miliband said: ‘Maybe. I don’t think that’s really the thing that is going to persuade people to get the vaccine.
‘I think we’ve done brilliantly in this country at rolling out the vaccine and people taking up the vaccine and the key thing is a campaign of persuasion for people to take up the vaccine. That is the biggest priority.
‘Now, if the Government has got evidence that this is necessary for people to go to hospitality venues, let’s look at that evidence. That isn’t quite what the Prime Minister said yesterday.
‘And indeed if it was necessary, why would you be leaving it up to individual landlords? If this was really a public health measure, you wouldn’t be saying, ‘Well, it is going to be a landlord discretion’ – you’d be saying, ‘This is the Government’s view, this is what’s safe’. So there are many, many unanswered questions about this.’
Also today, a Government minister suggested that the possibility of allowing the use of vaccine passports to for pubs and other venues was outlined as part of the Prime Minister’s road map for lockdown easing.
Children’s minister Vicky Ford, when asked why Boris Johnson appeared to U-turn on vaccine passports during his appearance before the Liaison Committee on Wednesday, told Sky News: ‘When we set out the road map way back in February to show us the way out of this lockdown, one of the things we said was that there would be reviews of different situations and there was always in that road map a review of the certifications (of having received a vaccine) and use of testing.
‘And that review – which looks at how you would use vaccines, how you would use testing to keep settings safe when we go to that widest reopening – that is due before the fourth stage of the lockdown, so it has always been very clear we would be looking at all the different measures in order to take that really widest step.’
Mrs Ford said she wanted to wait to see the results of the Government’s taskforce review into vaccine passports before expressing an opinion on their use in Britain.
She told LBC radio: ‘Obviously I want to get back to the pub with my friends as much as everybody else. I know there has been a lot of focus on this today.’
Pressed on whether she agreed with asking people to show a Covid status certificate, she added: ‘I think we need to wait for that review.
‘It has lots of ethical questions, etcetera, but it is being done, it has been promised that that will be there before that final stage of the lockdown in June.
‘It will look at testing and whether or not you should prove you have been tested recently, as well as other things.’
Covid Recovery Group chairman Mark Harper said the vaccination programme should signal a return to normality rather than lead to people being required to show proof of vaccination to access hospitality venues.
Speaking to Sky News about vaccine passports, he said: ‘I actually agree with the Prime Minister – that is the Prime Minister of February when he said that he didn’t think there was a case for expecting people to show papers to go to the pub and said there were very significant problems with ethical, moral questions about this issue. I’ve heard some heads of pub chains this morning set out some of those significant problems.
‘The key way we are going to deal with this issue is by vaccinating people, and we’ve already almost finished vaccinating, with their first doses, the top nine groups who are most vulnerable, who account for 99 per cent of those who died of Covid and over 80 per cent of the hospitalisations. That’s how we get out of this.’
Yesterday, the Prime Minister was asked about the idea of vaccine passports or certificates being required for entry to a pub at a meeting of the Commons liaison committee.
He said: ‘That’s the kind of thing – it may be up to individual publicans, it may be up to the landlord.
Drinkers outside a pub in London’s Soho on October 17, 2020, the first day after the capital was put into Tier Two restrictions
An woman from Hartlepool receives the AstraZeneca/Oxford University Covid-19 vaccine in Middlesbrough on Monday
‘The basic concept of vaccine certification should not be totally alien to us because when you’re entrusted with the care of a patient and, say you’re a surgeon, you’re expected to have a vaccination against hepatitis B. The principle is there.’
But William Lees-Jones of JW Lees, which has 42 pubs and hotels, said: ‘Vaccine passports are un-British – the Europeans might carry identity, but we’ve never done it, and I think it brings in a whole new level of bureaucracy.
‘I wouldn’t require my customers to have a vaccine passport. The industry needs to recover, and from June 21 there will be no restrictions in our pubs anyway.
‘We’re happy to show a passport getting on an airplane, it’s reassuring, but the fundamental of a pub is you can walk in, order a drink, and feel at ease. If the Government mandates this, it will be on thin ice.’
Dermot King of Oakman Inns, which has 34 pubs, said his ‘gut reaction’ was that he would not require a vaccine passport, but said he would consider it if it allowed restrictions to be dropped early.
He added: ‘It would be a lot of administration, and undoubtedly we’d have to keep records and send them. If customers felt safer going out and didn’t have to put up with the same restrictions once they’d produced a passport, then it could be worth it. Without those it’s just another barrier.’
Kate Nicholls of UK Hospitality insisted that visiting a pub, cafe or restaurant should not be subject to vaccination certification.
She added: ‘It is simply unworkable, would cause conflict between staff and customers and almost certainty result in breaches of equality rules.
‘Through the success of the vaccine rollout we need to throw off the shackles of coronavirus in line with the Government’s roadmap – not impose more checks on our ability to socialise and do business.’
Greg Mulholland, campaign director for the Campaign for Pubs, warned that the idea of pubs policing whether people have been vaccinated was ‘both unfair and also absurd’.
He said: ‘Pubs up and down the country have been without income for many months and already have the real challenge of reopening with restrictions like outdoors only opening and table service, things which make it difficult for many pubs to actually make a living.
‘So to now even suggest that pubs might take on the role of policing whether people have been vaccinated is both unfair and also absurd. Table service already means pubs having to take on more staff, despite less trade, so to have to take on door staff to check people’s vaccination history would be simply unviable, as well as alienating customers.
‘Pubs and publicans have shown they are keen to help with the fight against Covid-19 and operated test and trace before the UK Government actually got its act together.
‘Licensees and staff are ready to open safely and sensibly get back to being vitally important community hubs, but if the Government really want vaccine passports, then they need to organise this and not try to push the responsibility onto hardworking publicans who still have several challenging months ahead until pubs can open normally again’.
James Almond, whose family runs four pubs around Manchester, said: ‘I don’t think we would be asking people. I’m confident our pubs are safe without the vaccine passport.
‘It’s too offensive, our industry needs to be hospitable to win back confidence and asking for a passport on arrival is not hospitable. You don’t need a vaccine passport to show you haven’t got Covid – the rest of us are walking around without it too.’
Steve Baker, deputy chairman of the 70-strong Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, urged Mr Johnson to ‘not fall into this ghastly trap’ of demanding ‘papers for the pub’.
He added: ‘The Prime Minister began to tread a dangerous path when he opened the door to domestic Covid certificates. First they said we’ll need them to watch the football, and today that it may be papers for the pub. Whether the state legislates for it, recommends it, or simply allows it the result will be the same: a two-tier Britain.’
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove is considering what requirements hospitality venues could introduce as part of a review into the potential use of vaccine certificates.
It is due to report back in June but a decision could come before May 17 when pubs and restaurants will be allowed to serve indoors again.