The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has mooted the idea that owners of pubs, bars and clubs could ask that customers prove they’ve been vaccinated before allowing them to enter. Whether you think this is a really swell idea or an affront to civil liberties, there is currently a review looking into it. The passport would theoretically reflect negative test results, whether an individual was vaccinated or had immunity.
One senior Conservative MP, Steve Baker, reacted angrily to the news, dubbing the scheme a ‘ghastly trap’. Talking about the passports (which would most likely take the form of a digital certificate) he added: ‘First they said we’ll need them to watch the football, and today that it may be papers for the pub.’
When the prime minister was pressed on whether the scheme would be enforced by law, he said that it might be left up to the landlords and publicans to decide for themselves. This did not go down well with the chairman of the British Pub Confederation Greg Mulholland who said: ‘We were very happy pubs were doing their bit to help with test and trace. But for the government to abdicate responsibility and ask pubs to make a moral judgement – it’s just not acceptable.’
Jonathan Neame, chief executive of the Shepherd Neame pub chain, went on Radio4 to say that his venues would not be insisting on vaccine certificates. ‘The whole essence of a pub is that they are diverse and inclusive environments,’ he said. ‘Where everybody, and families in particular, are extremely welcome.’
Meanwhile, the chief exec of UK Hospitality Kate Nicholls pointed out that mandatory vaccination certification would cause other kinds of problems. ‘It is simply unworkable, would cause conflict between staff and customers and almost certainly result in breaches of equality rules,’ she said.
Johnson pointed out that as yet no decisions had been taken at all, and pubs and restaurants would still be able to reopen for outside dining and drinking on April 12 as planned. He also mentioned that the passport would have to take into account individuals who for medical reasons were unable to get vaccinated and pregnant women.
At the time of writing, almost 29 million British people have had their first vaccine jab. The vaccination passports review will publish a report about the feasibility of the plan in June.