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Backlash over plans for Covid vaccine passports in nightclubs

The Prime Minister was facing a backlash over his plans to make coronavirus vaccination compulsory for nightclubs and other crowded venues in the autumn.

Clubs, backbench Tories and opposition MPs criticised the Boris Johnson’s announcement on Monday – the day that clubs in England were allowed to open for the first time since March last year.

He was also told to clarify the relaxation of isolation rules for some fully-vaccinated critical workers who are close contacts of Covid-19 cases after a Government statement said it would not be a “blanket exemption for any sector or role”.

Speaking from self-isolation on so-called “freedom day”, Mr Johnson warned venues with large crowds that they must make full vaccination a requirement of entry from the end of September.

Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said during the Downing Street press conference clubs had the potential to cause “super spreading events”.

Mr Johnson declined to rule out extending vaccination passports to pubs as he attended the briefing virtually from his country residence of Chequers.

Night Time Industries Association chief executive Michael Kill accused the Government of “an absolute shambles”.

He said: “So, ‘freedom day’ for nightclubs lasted around 17 hours then.

“Eighty per cent 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.”

Mark Harper, the Conservative former chief whip who chairs the Covid Recovery Group of Tory lockdown-sceptics, criticised the plans as “effectively moving to compulsory vaccination”.

Former health secretary Jeremy Hunt, the Conservative chairman of the Health and Social Care Committee, questioned why the Government was delaying the plans until the autumn.

Labour’s shadow health minister Justin Madders said: “How can it be safe to go to nightclubs now, with no protective measures, if in September it will require double jab status? It makes no sense.

“This proposal is more confusion and incompetence from the heart of Government at the expense of public health. They need to get a grip.”

On Tuesday morning Former Supreme Court justice Lord Sumption said he was “disappointed” by the Government’s “two-faced response” to so-called freedom day.

When asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme if he was disappointed by the lack of freedoms, he said: “I am disappointed by the Government’s two-faced response.

“They have removed legal restrictions but put pressure on employers, venue owners, public transport and so on to maintain them as if nothing had changed.

“The latest statement about nightclubs for example, which is really a threat that unless they voluntarily insist on vaccine passes the Government will force them to do so, is a classic example.

“The age group affected by nightclubs has a negligible chance of getting seriously ill or dying, if they wish to take a risk then why should they not do so?”

Business minister Paul Scully said the use of Covid passports for nightclubs was not being introduced straight away in order to get the “detail” right.

He told Sky News: “We need to look at the detail behind it.

“It’s got to get through parliamentary scrutiny, so we’ve got to get it absolutely right, we’ve got to work with the sectors that are going to be affected, to make sure that we can define this really carefully.

“All we’re doing right now is giving an advanced warning of what is coming down the line.”

He denied the scheme was a bribe to young people to get their coronavirus vaccinations.

Asked whether he was comfortable with the Conservative Party implementing something similar to an ID card, Mr Scully told Sky News: “I’m not comfortable that Government is mandating anything frankly, I’m a very libertarian Conservative, I want to be able to back off, that’s why yesterday was an opportunity for Government to back off from so many different things and let people live their lives.

“But what we have to do is make sure that people will also live their lives safely, the NHS can function safely, and these are the challenges that we still have to do.

“So it’s incredibly frustrating, it’s incredibly complicated to work through the detail, but that’s the challenge we have.”

He said ministers urged nightclubs to implement the use of Covid-19 passports voluntarily ahead of September.

Mr Scully told Sky News that “crowded pubs” would not be included in plans to use Covid-19 certification.

He said nightclubs and “larger ticketed events” would be affected and he said “there are a number of sporting venues that are already looking at voluntarily doing this”.

He said: “We want to stop the NHS being overwhelmed by cases throughout the winter.”

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