Covid: Only double-vaccinated allowed in nightclubs from end of September, Boris Johnson says
Full vaccination will be a condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues with large crowds from the autumn, Boris Johnson has said.
Despite allowing nightclubs to open up at midnight without any restrictions, the prime minister has subsequently decided that new requirements will come into force by the end of September.
“I should serve notice now that by the end of September, when all over-18s will have had their chance to be double-jabbed, we’re planning to make full vaccination a condition of entry into nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather,” Mr Johnson said. “Proof of a negative test will no longer be enough.”
The prime minister also used his Monday press conference to suggest that mandatory Covid passports could be brought in sooner – if nightclub owners fail to ask for some form of certification voluntarily.
“I don’t want to have to close nightclubs again,” Mr Johnson said. “But it does mean nightclubs need to do the socially-responsible thing and make use of the NHS Covid pass … We do reserve the right to mandate such certification.”
The government has faced huge criticism about allowing nightclubs to become a new source of Covid transmission, after thousands of people danced the night away at “Freedom Day” parties.
Julian Tang, a clinical virologist at the University of Leicester, warned that nightclubs were the “perfect mixing vessel for the virus to spread and to even generate new variants potent spreading grounds”.
The government is currently asking nightclubs to check whether customers have been vaccinated or have a negative test result. But there is no legal requirement for them to do so – and most say they won’t.
Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser, made clear there were significant concerns about nightclubs creating “super spreader” events, allowing the virus to grow more quickly.
“Right the way across the world we’ve seen that nightclubs and events where lots of people gather indoors are a potential for super-spreading events,” he told the Downing Street press conference.
“It’s been seen in Holland and Israel, where nightclubs opened and you saw a big increase in cases. So I think there’s no question that that is an environment in which spreading is easier.”
Sir Patrick added: “I expect with the opening of nightclubs we’ll continue to see an increase in cases and outbreaks related to specific nightclubs.”
Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi also told MPs in the Commons that proof of a negative test will no longer be enough to gain entry to clubs or large events from the autumn.
“By the end of September everyone aged 18 and over will have the chance to receive full vaccination,” he said. “So at that point we plan to make full vaccination a condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather.”
Tory MP Jeremy Hunt, chair of the health select committee, questioned why the government was waiting until the end of September to implement the plans.
“Why are we waiting until then – giving more weight to the concerns of people who want to go to nightclubs than the additional extra cases waiting two months is likely to cause – at a time when that growth in new cases is of such a concern?” Mr Hunt asked in the Commons.
Mr Zahawi replied: “We will work with the industry to make sure we get this right now in terms of working with them with the Covid pass, and of course in September, while we collate the evidence.”
Nightclubs open their doors for first time since start of Covid
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), described the plans as an “absolute shambles”. He responded to the latest announcement by saying: “So, freedom day for nightclubs lasted around 17 hours then.”
“Either mandate it or don’t mandate it,” Mr Kill said on certification. “This is putting an inordinate amount of pressure on us.”
Labour MP Justin Madders, shadow health minister, said: “You can forgive [nightclub owners] from not knowing where they stand from one week to the next. This is about the fourth U-turn on Covid vaccine passports.”
He said the plan to wait until September to implement new rules lacked “logic”, adding: “It just doesn’t make any sense at all.”