Hospitality

Mark Drakeford Tells the Welsh Hospitality Industry to Prepare for Vaccine Passports

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has declared that vaccine passports may be imposed on the hospitality industry, along with the return of work from home mandates, to tackle an increase in the number of Covid hospital admissions. The Welsh Government also wishes to introduce vaccine passports to cinemas, theatres, and concert halls from November 15th. The MailOnline has the story.

Speaking on Sky News, Drakeford said: “We have to make a concerted effort over the next three weeks to bring those numbers down.”

It comes as Wales is set to tighten Covid restrictions to tackle a rising number of hospital admissions, with more than 680 people in Welsh hospitals with Covid on October 27th. 

Positive case numbers have also been at their highest recorded total since the pandemic began this month, although numbers have dipped in recent days to fewer than 2,600. 

Official data showed England recorded 33,903 new infections, 2,153 cases were confirmed in Scotland, while 2,664 were spotted in Wales and 1,122 in Northern Ireland. Cases appear to be trending downwards in all four nations. 

And the number of people going to hospital who were infected with Covid seems to be plateauing. Some 962 sought NHS care on Sunday — the most recent day the data is available for — a rise of 0.3% on the 959 patients admitted last week.

Meanwhile, 165 people died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus, a jump of 43.5% on the 115 deaths recorded on the same day last week.

Despite cases trending downwards and No10’s modellers estimating there will be just 5,000 daily cases over the festive period, the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said the UK is still in a “very uncertain phase'” of the pandemic and warned ‘Plan B’ should not be taken off the table.

Within Wales, adults who are fully vaccinated, and young people aged five to 17, will be asked to self-isolate until they have received a negative PCR test if someone in their household has symptoms or tests positive for Covid.

People who are not vaccinated will still have to self-isolate for 10 days following contact with someone who has tested positive, including close contacts outside of their household.

Asked what more could be done, Mr Drakeford told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We can certainly extend the Covid pass into other settings. 

“We will be talking to hospitality over the next three weeks to help them to prepare, should that be necessary. We hope it won’t be, of course.

“We will go back to the risk assessments we carry out in the workplace to see whether there is more we can do, more people working from home, back to social distancing in the workplace, looking at the way that schools are organised to try to prevent more young people from contracting the disease.

“The current level of restrictions in Wales are the lowest they have been since coronavirus began. I want it to stay that way, to keep Wales safe, to keep Wales open”.

Worth reading in full.

A Doctor Writes: Predictions of Doom Have Not Been Borne Out

We’re publishing an update this morning from the Daily Sceptic’s in-house doctor in which he analyses the latest NHS hospital data. Conclusion: no need to panic.

I have been a bit quiet lately, partly due to being on holiday and partly due to waiting a while to examine what trends are emerging from the hospital admissions data over the later summer.

On looking at the latest figures and associated media commentary I have been reminded of an old Russian aphorism from the Soviet era: “The future is certain, but the past keeps changing.”

For example, on February 3rd, 2020, Boris Johnson, warned of the danger that “new diseases such as coronavirus will trigger a panic”, leading to measures that “go beyond what is medically rational, to the point of doing real and unnecessary economic damage”.

I didn’t catch any reference to that (very reasonable) remark this week when the Prime Minister imposed further taxation on the working-age population and the companies that employ them. Before returning to the airbrushing of recent history, I will consider the hospital level data over the last month to discern trends and discuss what reasonable inferences we can draw from the numbers. I confess that some of the information doesn’t quite make sense to me – I will elaborate on this point later.

The first and most glaringly obvious fact is that the catastrophic tsunami of hospitalisations confidently predicted by all the experts who have assumed the governance of the U.K. has failed to arrive. How annoying that must be for Richard Horton, Editor in Chief of the Lancet, who described the relaxing of restrictions in July as “driven by libertarian ideology” rather than the data. Or Trish Greenhalgh, Professor of Primary Care Health Sciences at Oxford University, who said that “the Government policy seems designed to increase cases” and predicted there will be hundreds of ‘superspreader’ events in the coming weeks. The Lancet published a letter signed by 122 self-identifying experts which suggested that the Government was conducting a “dangerous and unethical experiment” in removing societal restrictions on July 19th.

Hospitality Sector Faces Surge in Bankruptcies as Government Support Dries Up

Months of forced closures during lockdowns followed by staff shortages due to the ‘pingdemic’ means it’s not just shops that are struggling to survive but hospitality businesses too. The number of bankruptcies is already on the up and is expected to peak as Government support runs out. The Telegraph has the story.

The insolvency firm Mazars said the end of pandemic subsidies over the next six months and staff recruitment woes meant those businesses which had just about managed to stay afloat during the pandemic were now starting to feel the pain.

Partner Rebecca Dacre said: “It is clear that we have yet to see the full extent of the pandemic’s financial hit on hotels and restaurants.

“Businesses that are just keeping their head above water are likely to be taken under by the end of Government support schemes, the repeated cost of reopening and restocking, difficulty recruiting staff and lower occupancy or covers due to people’s changing habits or working patterns.

“Those businesses that have benefited from U.K. tourism this summer may still find themselves looking for support after the holiday season ends.”

Hotels and restaurants struggled to repay the loans even as Government support schemes remained in place, allowing them to furlough staff and avoid landlord action for unpaid rents. The Government had also put in place a block on so-called winding up petitions, preventing lenders from asking courts to close businesses which owe them money and sell their assets.

This block is due to be lifted at the end of September, at the same time as the furlough scheme will be completely wound down. Next March, a suspension on landlord action for rent arrears will be lifted. …

The noodle chain Wagamama has become the latest to feel the pinch of labour shortages, warning a fifth of its restaurants are having difficulty hiring chefs.

Chief Executive Thomas Heier said that he was struggling to fill vacancies at 30 sites. He said competition from delivery and logistics companies had drained the pool of available workers. …

It follows a wave of closures during the pandemic, with names such as Byron, the burger chain, and Italian ­eatery Carluccio’s having collapsed. Both were later rescued, although many of their sites were closed.

Worth reading in full.

Hamburg Businesses to Be Given ‘Choice’ to Bar Unvaccinated Residents

Hamburg has become the first German city to tell a range of venues, including restaurants, clubs and, according to some reports, religious institutions, that they are permitted to bar unvaccinated residents. Mandates will also apply to workers within these organisations. Those that decide not to introduce vaccine passes will be forced to continue enforcing other restrictive policies. The Local has the story.

German states on Monday moved to a uniform Covid health pass system which allows entry to many public spaces, such as indoor dining, only to people who’ve been vaccinated, have recovered from Covid or have been tested against Covid. It’s known as the ‘3G model’ in Germany.

But on Tuesday, Hamburg announced it will introduce a ‘2G option model’ for event organisers and business owners – effectively banning unvaccinated people.

It means venue and event bosses will be allowed to offer their services and allow entry only to people who are fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid within the last six months. Those who are eligible for vaccination but haven’t got it will not be allowed to enter. 

Businesses have to let the city know if they plan to use the 2G entry system. 

The obligation to provide proof also applies to employees working on the premises in question, said the Senate. 

Under 2G, businesses will not need the same hygiene regulations. It will allow bosses, for instance, to admit more guests or offer a free choice of seating without mandatory spacing requirements. However, masks will remain compulsory in all indoor settings.

The 2G option will be launched on Saturday. Organisers can also opt for the 3G model – but if they do, they will have to follow previous Covid restrictions, such as caps on the amount of people who can attend. 

The 2G or 3G option is aimed at theatres, cinemas, trade fair operators, restaurants, hotels, swimming pools and fitness studios, among other businesses.

Organisers of sporting events with visitors, public festivals or educational courses should also be able to exclude unvaccinated people if they want to, said the Hamburg Senate.

The Senate said operators will face heavy fines if they do not check for proof of vaccination or recovery (or a negative test if it’s a 3G event).

Worth reading in full.

Pubs Could Be Forced to Reintroduce Social Distancing During ‘Covid Surges’ if They Don’t Check Vaccine Passports

Rather than forcing hospitality venues to check vaccine passports later this year, the Government is considering giving pubs and restaurants a ‘choice’: check the vaccination status of customers or reintroduce social distancing (that is, massively reduce profits) during ‘Covid surges’. The Telegraph has the story.

The idea is being looked at as an alternative to changing the law to mandate vaccine passports – a tougher stance that Boris Johnson warned could be adopted next month.

Under the latest proposal, venues with large indoor crowds would not be forced to adopt vaccine passports but would be offered incentives to adopt them instead.

This could include being able to stay open at full capacity, rather than only being allowed to conduct table service and have no punters at bars, if there is another Covid wave.

One adviser to a Cabinet minister said the idea was being discussed, saying that there was now momentum inside the Government behind some form of Covid certification this autumn.

A similar proposal had been considered by a review led by Michael Gove into Covid certification earlier in the year but was dropped as daily cases fell during the spring. …

But Mark Harper, who leads the Covid Recovery Group of lockdown-sceptic Tory MPs, criticised the Government for considering any form of vaccine passport in a domestic setting.

Mr Harper said: “Given our very high uptake of vaccination, especially among the groups vulnerable to Covid, what problem are these disproportionate ideas trying to solve? 

“I’m surprised the Government is even suggesting it – it’s almost like they don’t believe that our vaccines work. Just the suggestion will damage business confidence.

“The case for vaccine passports is not backed up by evidence from the Government’s own events research programme. Ministers would be wise to drop these threats now and focus on continuing to encourage vaccination through positive public health messages.”

Worth reading in full.

One in 10 Pubs and Restaurants Forced to Close Last Month Due to ‘Pingdemic’

Hospitality venues were relying on the easing of restrictions on ‘Freedom Day’ to make up for their lockdown losses, but they’ve found that one set of restrictions has simply been replaced by another. The Chief Executive of U.K. Hospitality reports that one in 10 pubs and restaurants have been forced to close over the past month because of staff shortages caused by the ‘pingdemic‘. One in five venues has also had to “significantly adjust their offer or services” to cope with the continued disruption to business. MailOnline has the story.

The ‘pingdemic’ has seen record numbers of people being alerted by the NHS Covid app to self-isolate in recent weeks, including 700,000 for the week to July 21st.

The Government rolled out exemptions for workers it deems to be employed in critical industries, such as those in the food sector, transport and waste collection.

Daily negative test results can enable such workers who have been alerted by the app or called by NHS Test and Trace as Covid contacts to continue working.

Kate Nicholls [of U.K. Hospitality] told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “In the last month one in 10 of our businesses have had to close their sites and more importantly one in five have had to significantly adjust their offer or services in order to cope with the pandemic.”

She added: “The ‘pingdemic’ has hit at the same time as the reopening, they haven’t had time to rebuild cash reserves and so they are in quite a fragile state and the hit to revenues as a result of the pingdemic is running at about 15 to 20% of revenues for those businesses that are affected.

“So it is a significant suppression just at the point in time when these businesses needed to start recovering from about 16 months worth of closure and restrictions.” …

It comes as desperate councils are offering lorry drivers bonuses of £3,000 in a bid to clear the backlog of bin collections caused by the ‘pingdemic’.

Rubbish has piled up in many areas in recent weeks – with up to 40% of some local authority workforces having to isolate.

Some residents have been told to cut down on the amount of food that they throw out as piles of uncollected waste grow. 

Others have been asked not to put their bins out unless they are full, with collection services in dozens of areas running significantly behind schedule.

Separately, a new report has warned more than 1.1 million jobs remain unfilled as the pingdemic crisis worsens the shortage of workers.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: The Health Secretary has finally agreed to make the NHS Covid-tracking app less sensitive. Until now, it pinged people who’d been in contact with an infected person at any point during a five-day period before they tested positive; henceforth, that will be reduced to two days. MailOnline has the story.

“Outrageous Proposal” to Introduce Vaccine Passports Could Split Tories “Irretrievably”, Warns Steve Baker

Introducing vaccine passports wouldn’t just create a two-tier society but would risk splitting the Conservative Party “irretrievably”, says the Conservative MP Steve Baker, warning the Prime Minister against proceeding with this “outrageous proposal”. Reports suggest that upwards of 42 Tories could vote against the Government’s plans in Parliament, but the deciding vote will likely lie with Labour. The Sun has the story.

Mr. Baker, Deputy Chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Tories, told the Sun: “It is an outrageous proposal, and one that doesn’t seem likely to do any good.

“Who are they now trying to coerce? Whose education are they now trying to deny?

“I believe the Government is in terrible danger of splitting the Tory Party irretrievably – after all we have been through with Brexit.”

Tory MP Mark Harper said Number 10 is making vaccines compulsory through the back door by threatening to deny a university education to those who refuse.

He warned: “Persuasion is much better than coercion.” …

Professor Robert West, a behavioural scientist who advises the Government on Covid policy, warned the plan could spectacularly backfire.

He said: “Using a sort of stick approach as opposed to a carrot and stick approach, I think is a mistake.

“By and large, if we want to get people to do things, it’s far better to get them on board with the idea of doing it rather than getting them to do it because they feel they have to.

“When you do that you start to create resentment.” …

The PM’s spokesman said: “We are still looking at the scope for vaccination certification.”

While the Tory Party are at war over vaccine passports, Labour’s stance was mired in chaos and confusion.

Labour had suggested they could join Tory rebels to inflict a humiliating defeat on vaccine passports in the Commons when a vote on it is held in September.

But muddled Sir Keir Starmer today hinted he could back the plan. He told LBC: “What I don’t want to see, just to be very clear about this, is I don’t want to see vaccine passports used on an everyday basis for access to critical things like health, dentistry, food, etc.

“So, for sporting events, I’ll look at what the Government puts on the table.

“I want to be pragmatic because we all want all business sectors and sporting sectors to return as quickly as possible.

But not for everyday use.”

He also said vaccine passports must include the option to have a negative test instead.

Worth reading in full.

Italians to Require Covid “Green Passes” to Get Into Restaurants, Gyms and Theatres

Italy is set to join the growing list of countries preventing their unvaccinated citizens from living their lives as normal ‘after’ lockdown.

From next month, Italians will need a Covid ‘Green Pass’ showing proof of vaccination against the virus or negative tests to be allowed into restaurants, gyms, museums, movie theatres and more so as to assure those who are vaccinated that “they won’t be next to contagious people”. The MailOnline has the story.

Premier Mario Draghi’s Government approved a decree on Thursday ordering the use of the so-called Green Passes starting on August 6th. 

To be eligible for a pass, individuals must prove they have received at least one vaccine dose in the last nine months, recovered from Covid in the last six months or tested negative in the previous 48 hours.

The passes will be needed to dine at tables inside restaurants or cafes, to attend sports events, town fairs and conferences, and to enter casinos, bingo parlours and pools, among other activities. according to officials.

The certification is needed to “to keep economic activity open” and will allow people to enjoy entertainment “with the assurance they won’t be next to contagious people”, Draghi said.

“The Italian economy is going well. It’s reviving, and Italy is growing at a rhythm superior to that of other EU nations,” the Premier told reporters.

Some 40 million people in Italy have already downloaded a Green Pass, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said. 

He noted that the certification is already required to attend wedding receptions and to visit residents of care homes.

However, some have protested against the use of the Green Pass, with people taking to the streets of Turin on Thursday night to protest its use. …

So far, 45.8% of people in Italy have been fully vaccinated. In comparison, 53.9% of people in the U.K. have received two jabs, as have 53.6% of people in Spain, 47.6% of people in Germany and 43.5% in France.

Worth reading in full.

Nightclubs to Ignore Government Plea to Check Customers’ Vaccine Status

The Government’s insistence that it the “social responsibility” of large indoor events to check vaccine passports is “disingenuous and unclear“, says the Night Time Industries Association as two of the biggest nightclub chains have ruled out introducing such checks. Rekom U.K. and Tokyo Industries will reopen next week without discriminating against unvaccinated customers, but Government officials have warned that vaccine passports could become mandatory in the near future if hospitality venues don’t play ball.

Theatres and festivals are considering introducing vaccine passports, but cinemas are more resistant to the idea. The Times has more.

Peter Marks, Chief Executive of Rekom U.K., said yesterday that its 42 venues would reopen next week “at full capacity and without any requirement for a negative Covid test, something we believe would create a barrier to both customer enjoyment and getting the industry back on its feet”.

Aaron Mellor, Founder of the nightclub chain Tokyo Industries, will reopen all of its 45 venues next week aside from those that cater for university students who are away during the summer.

“Many of our events have already been sold out and to ask us now retrospectively to force a vaccine passport is super-difficult to manage,” he said. “You’ve also got to consider that many of our target age group are people in the 18-25 bracket who haven’t had the option to have two vaccinations yet.”

Michael Kill, Chief Executive of the Nighttime Industries Association, said the industry was at risk of being “scapegoated” for a rise in cases resulting from other factors including the European football championships.

At a meeting with nightlife groups yesterday, Government officials stressed that coronavirus passports could become mandatory further down the line. The Times reported last week that plans were being drawn up to extend their use to other entertainment and hospitality settings in the autumn.

Cinemas have said they would resist such a move. Phil Clapp, Chief Executive of the U.K. Cinema Association, said: “We believe that the overwhelming majority of our members continue to oppose the notion that audience members should be required to show evidence of a double Covid vaccination or negative test before being allowed into their venues.

“U.K. cinemas have throughout the pandemic repeatedly shown their ability to offer a safe and enjoyable environment, as evidenced by the fact that not a single case of Covid has been traced back to a cinema site.”

Theatres are more amenable to the proposal, however. London theatre groups including Nimax, Delfont Mackintosh, LW Theatres and the Really Useful Group met yesterday to agree on an industry standard for Covid certification.

They will recommend that theatregoers bring proof of their vaccination status from next week when venues have opened at full capacity, despite the fact that they are not required to do so by the Government.

Festivals have also welcomed the measures. Paul Reed, Chief Executive of the Association of Independent Festivals, said that it supported Covid passports as a “short-term measure to kickstart our £1.76 billion festival industry safely”.

He added: “With no legal requirement to do this, it is going to come down to what is acceptable at a localised level with relevant authorities and directors of public health.”

Greg Parmley, Chief Executive of LIVE, which represents the live music industry, said: “We were supportive of mandatory Covid certification for large events to allow us to reopen and now expect those large events, where organisers feel it is necessary, to move forward with certification to build customer confidence.”

Worth reading in full.

People Who Have Had One or Zero Doses of a Covid Vaccine to be Barred from Indoor Hospitality When it Reopens in Ireland

The Irish Government is delaying the reopening of indoor hospitality, along with other indoor activities, due to fears over the Indian Delta variant. To add insult to injury, only those who have been fully vaccinated against Covid, and who have a pass to prove it, will be allowed into indoor venues when restrictions are finally eased. People who have only received one dose of a vaccine, or who – for medical or other personal reasons – are unvaccinated, will be forced to stay outside. BBC News has more.

Indoor hospitality was due to reopen on July 5th.

When it reopens, indoor hospitality will be limited to those who are fully vaccinated against Covid, Taoiseach (Irish PM) Micheál Martin has said.

The recommendation had been made by the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET). …

Mr Martin said while there will be an increase in the number of people who can attend outdoor events and the number who can attend weddings will be increased to 50 as planned, “the return to other indoor activities including hospitality will be delayed”.

“NPHET’s clear advice based on the modelling it has done is that given the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant, the safest way to now proceed with the return of indoor hospitality is to limit access to those who have been fully vaccinated or who have recovered from Covid infection,” he said. …

“The simple truth is that we are in a race between the variants and the vaccines and we want to do everything we can to ensure that the vaccine wins.” …

The Taoiseach gave no date as to when indoor dining and drinking in pubs and restaurants will resume.

Restaurateurs and publicans have expressed their anger and frustration at Mr Martin’s comments…

The plans have been criticised by the Restaurants Association of Ireland, which said it was “astounded” that indoor hospitality will face a further delay.

In a statement, the group said it believed the policy is discriminatory and unworkable. 

“Restaurant, pub and café owners will now be placed in the unenviable, complex and difficult position of allowing vaccinated customers enter indoors and restricting non-vaccinated customers to outdoor dining,” its Chief Executive Adrian Cummins said. 

“Such a practice of refusing access to goods and services in currently illegal under equality acts.”

He added that many people working in the hospitality sector are in the unvaccinated age groups, and could potentially be asked to refuse service to their peers.

Worth reading in full.