pubs

After Vaccine Passports Were ‘Scrapped’, Government Refuses To Rule Out Passes for Pubs

The Health Secretary says vaccine passport checks could be imposed on pubs if “something happens that means that we have to take further measures” but continues to dodge the question of what exactly “something” means. The Times has the story.

The Government will refuse to set a specific threshold when action is to be taken but ministers are understood to be considering publishing a list of indicators.

Javid said that such measures were being monitored “on a daily basis”, with the NHS and the Joint Biosecurity Centre involved. He told the BBC that “there won’t be any single trigger”. He added: “There are a number of measures we are going to keep under close watch with our friends in the NHS. That of course includes hospitalisations, it includes the pressure on A&E, on the ambulance services, staffing levels.”

Javid refused to rule out compulsory certification for everyday life, alarming many Tory backbenchers who have branded the Government’s plan “a slippery slope towards more restrictions”.

Ministers believe that as a last resort vaccine passports are preferable to lockdown measures and could be a way to keep open hospitality businesses.

Javid told the radio station LBC that he didn’t think the country would need vaccine passports to go to the pub. He added a caveat, however: “Unless… something happens that means that we have to take further measures.”

He said that contingency plans “may well include vaccine passports as a reserve measure”. He cited a new variant that was more infectious or vaccine resistant, saying “in that situation, we have to be ready to take further action”. …

On Tuesday Johnson said that he had “never been in favour of vaccine passports for pubs” but that they might have been a “game changer” last year.

“It’s just not sensible to rule out completely this kind of option now when we must face the fact that it might still make the difference between keeping business open at full capacity or not,” he told a Downing Street press conference.

“If you think a year ago, where we were last September, can you imagine if we’d had then . . . if we’d had Covid certification?

“We would have been able, with that tool, to keep open businesses that had been forced to close and were going through an absolutely wretched time. They would’ve been a game changer, a lifesaver, last year. So I think they’re an important part of our repertoire.”

Worth reading in full.

Nadhim Zahawi Won’t Rule Out Vaccine Passports in Pubs

The Vaccines Minister insisted vaccine passports will not be imposed on “essential services” in a clash with MPs today but refused to rule out their introduction at pubs and restaurants. The Sun has the story.

Nadhim Zahawi defended the introduction of vaccine passports which he said would “reduce transmission and serious illness”.

Boris Johnson is already facing a major rebellion over the plans, with more than 50 Tories expected to mutiny.

Covid papers will be needed to enter nightclubs and other large indoor venues from later this month.

Mr. Zahawi didn’t rule out their use becoming more widespread.

He sparred with raging MPs during a heated debate at the Commons Constitutional Affairs Committee.

The vaccines minister was pressed by Labour’s Deputy Leader Angela Rayner on where people will have to show Covid papers.

He replied: “I can assure her that there are some essential services which will not need for people to show Covid vaccine certification.

“These settings that have stayed open throughout the pandemic, such as public sector buildings, essential retail, essential services and public transport.”

Mr. Zahawi insisted it “pains” him to introduce vaccine passports and it’s a decision “we do not take lightly”.

He said it is “something that goes against the DNA of this minister and his PM but we are living through difficult times, unprecedented times”. …

But fuming Tory MPs lined up to angrily denounce the Government’s plans.

William Wragg accused the minister of talking “a load of rubbish” and said he was trying to “defend the indefensible”. …

Mark Harper, Chairman of the Covid Research Group, said vaccine passports are “a pointless policy with damaging effects”.

He added: “I’m afraid the Minister is picking an unnecessary fight with his own colleagues. I say to him the Government should think again.”

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.

Minister Refuses to Rule Out Forcing Pubs to Check Vaccine Passports

A minister has refused to rule out the prospect of the Government barring unvaccinated Brits from pubs.

Business Minister Paul Scully told Sky News that officials are “not saying crowded pubs at all” as part of plans to introduce vaccine passport checks at nightclubs and other large venues. This is hardly comforting, given the Vaccines Minister’s toing and froing on the matter. Scully confirmed that “we’re not ruling anything out” and admitted that more clarity is needed. Sky News has more.

When it was put to him that some pubs can be as crowded as nightclubs, Mr Scully told Sky News the Government has to “work on the definition” of “crowded venues” that will be covered by vaccine passports.

He said: “We’ve got to define it really carefully and we’ll do that in the coming months until we get there.”

Asked about the prospect of vaccine passports for pubs at a Downing Street news conference on Monday, Boris Johnson said he did not want a situation where people are asked to “produce papers” to get into pubs but did not rule it out.

The Prime Minister, who is currently isolating after Health Secretary Sajid Javid tested positive for Covid, said “I certainly don’t want to see passports for pubs” but in enclosed crowded places with close contact “we reserve a right to do what is necessary to protect the public”.

Mr Scully added that “a number of” sporting venues are already looking at requiring vaccine passports for entry. …

Some 35% of 18 to 30 year-olds – three million people – are unvaccinated, but the minister denied it was effectively a “bribe” to younger people to get them vaccinated, stressing the move was about stopping the NHS being “overwhelmed”.

“This is the right thing to do to make sure that we get on top of the transmission of cases,” Mr Scully said. …

[Labour’s Shadow Economic Secretary Pat McFadden] said Labour would examine the details of the Government’s proposals before deciding whether or not to support them.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Mandatory Covid certification will be required for journalists to enter Downing Street, according to Harry Cole, Political Editor at the Sun. “And they wonder why there are fears nightclubs are just the thin end of the wedge?”

Norwich Pub Becomes First in Britain to Announce Vaccine Passport Checks for Punters

A report in the Telegraph suggests that the Government could urge pubs, bars and restaurants to check vaccine passports. One pub in Norwich didn’t need any persuading and has become the first in the country to announce that it will discriminate against unvaccinated Brits.

Philip Cutter, the Landlord of The Gardeners Arms, decided to introduce vaccine checks after two of his 25 bar staff tested positive for Covid, forcing him to shut for 10 days, according to reports. He also appears to have been egged on by Public Health England, which warned against relying on people being honest when submitting Covid test results to show at the door. The MailOnline has more.

Customers will be asked to show their vaccination card or NHS phone app showing proof of vaccination before they are allowed in his pub and his neighbouring café and bar called The Murderers.

Mr Cutter said: “I have not heard of any other pubs doing this. It just seems a common sense thing to do to protect my staff and customers and my business going forward.

“I know nightclubs have been asked to consider looking into some sort of vaccination passport. We are a busy city centre venue so we are not very different.

“If we were in a position where this Delta variant was not running riot, then we would be looking at things slightly differently.

“But there is a lot of virus out there and I want to do my best to protect everyone in my building.”

Mr Cutter said that people would only be admitted with proof of having been vaccinated at least two weeks earlier to give them a chance to have developed antibodies.

He added: “I have had a lot of support from older customers who are really pleased and say they will feel more comfortable about coming in.

“However, there are one or two people who are virulently against the idea, and see it is as yet another measure to curtail their freedom.

“But with around 80% of British adults having been vaccinated, I think that the majority of people are going to be happy with it. …

“I don’t want to turn anyone away, but I have got to make a call to protect my customers, staff and business.

“All it takes is one person to come in with some semblance of the virus to pass it on.” …

He added: “We’re not trying to discriminate or embarrass anyone, we’re just trying to make sure our staff and customers are safe. …

“We spoke to Public Health England about doing lateral flow tests instead, but they said the issue is you have to trust the person who submits the details.”

Worth reading in full.

Vaccine Passports WILL Be Needed in Bars, Restaurants and Clubs in a Push to Get the Young Vaccinated

We haven’t seen the end of plans for the introduction of Covid vaccine passports, according to the Times. Its splash today says that “Covid certificates” will be needed to enter bars, restaurants and nightclubs under plans to combat a “fourth wave”, though the actual reason – as before, and as in Israel – is to push young people to take the vaccine, following a fall in take-up in this age group.

Entertainment venues in England would be forced to make customers use so-called vaccination passports from autumn, to prove that they had either had both doses or a negative test the day before. Recent figures have shown a reduction in the take-up of vaccines with first doses halving in two weeks. Fewer than 100,000 a day are being given out on average for the first time since April.

Unvaccinated young people are believed to be behind a rise in cases. One in 160 people in England were thought to have the coronavirus after a 58% rise over seven days, according to the Office for National Statistics. It estimates that 332,900 people had the virus in the week ending July 3rd, similar to levels in mid-October, with cases more than ten times higher in those aged 16-24 than the over-70s. …

Government sources said it had been decided not to force Covid certificates to be used as part of the easing of restrictions this month because it would discriminate against younger people who had not had their second jab.

There were also concerns it could have hit the so-called “spontaneous economy” with people being turned away from businesses because they could not prove a negative test result.

However, by mid-September ministers say all over-18s will have had the chance to have both jabs and officials believe that vaccination passports could be mandated for use in premises where social distancing is not possible.

“In autumn vaccine passports could become an important tool that will allow us to keep things open,” a Downing Street source said.

Another Government figure added: “If we can show real benefits of getting vaccinated in terms of everyday life then it could be quite a useful tool.”

While more than 95% of the over-50s have been vaccinated, the rate is 76% in those aged 30-34 and is now plateauing. So far 58% of those aged 18 to 24 have had a first jab.

Helen Stokes-Lampard, Head of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, said that dropping the requirement to quarantine for the fully vaccinated could also be a “very helpful incentive” for young people but urged the Government to “redouble efforts” to ensure they accepted the jab. But in a blunt warning she said that it was “unhelpful and potentially dangerous” to think of life returning to normal this month and people should continue to be cautious about socialising.

“July 19th should not be regarded as Freedom Day,” Stokes-Lampard said. “From a medical perspective, it shocks me to think that all restrictions would suddenly be dropped. We are in the middle of a dangerous third wave.”

She said that continuing to wear masks indoors was an “obvious one” in terms of tackling the spread.

Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England, is also understood to be concerned that people will give up infection prevention measures once restrictions are lifted.

Worth reading in full.

Pub Takings on Match Days Massively Lower Than Pre-Lockdown Levels

Around 17 million pints would be sold in pubs on Sunday during the Euro 2020 final if it wasn’t for the continuation of social distancing restrictions. Instead, nearly 13 million are expected to be sold, according to the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), as pubs across the country struggle to break even. The Guardian has the story.

Billed as the closest thing to being in the stadium itself, sales in bars or pubs showing sport are usually 200-300% higher on big match days during a normal year. However, capacity constraints mean although sales during Euro 2020 are up about 60% on match days, that is only in comparison with poor takings over the past Covid-hit [lockdown-hit] year.

“We are seeing an uplift in drinks sales on match days but because of capacity constraints it is nowhere near as much as it would usually be,” said Kate Nicholls, the Chief Executive of industry trade body U.K. Hospitality. As a rule, pubs were only taking 70% of their usual sales which was not enough to break even, she said.

In Norwich, Dawn Hopkins said her pub, the Rose Inn, will be full, although at the moment that means just 30 customers. “We are obviously fully booked,” she said. “I’ve been turning away people for weeks who want to watch the football but social distancing and the need to be seated limits our capacity. I think everybody’s grateful to be trading again but it’s still very difficult.”

The BBPA estimates nearly 13 million pints will be sold on Sunday, with 7.1 million during the match itself. That total would be nearer 17 million but for Covid restrictions, which mean venues are at 50-60% of normal capacity.

Fuller’s, a pub owner in London and the south-east, said most of its 209 venues were fully booked on Sunday but it could have “taken a lot more” were it not for the “disappointing” restrictions. “It has brought people together though and pubs are the next best thing to being there,” the company added.

Greg Mulholland, of the Campaign for Pubs organisation, said the Euros had brought welcome extra trade but pubs were struggling, with table service challenging and costly. Some landlords said they had been warned by licensing officials they could be fined if fans got carried away, and he hoped the authorities took a “common-sense approach”.

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.