Govt Makes Another Pledge of No Vaccine Passports for Pubs, After Several U-Turns and Mixed Messages

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 07: Charles Douglas Barr enjoys a pint outside The Last Drop pub in the Grassmarket on October 7, 2020 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that pubs and restaurants across the country's central belt, including Edinburgh and Glasgow, will close from Friday at …
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Another government minister has made the latest of claims that domestic vaccination passports will not be needed to go to the pub; however, in the past nine months, the Johnson administration has u-turned on the position several times already.

Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Gillian Keegan reiterated other ministers and Boris Johnson’s edict that from late September, patrons will need to show proof of double vaccination to enter nightclubs.

Mrs Keegan said that there were “some other” settings “under review” which could also be subject to domestic vaccine passports, and when asked by LBC’s Tom Swarbrick on Tuesday if that could include pubs, the minister said, “no.”

“I think it’s more where there are lots and lots of crowds of people, so a large nightclub, maybe a large venue where there’s lots of people, and they’re indoors. They’re the ones that are under review,” Mrs Keegan said.

Asked to confirm that that won’t include pubs, the apprenticeships and skills minister said: “No, I don’t think there’s consideration at the moment.”

However, the minister appeared to leave open the possibility of passes for pints, continuing: “But of course, we take this virus as we find it. We are trying always to get ahead of it.

“The vaccine programme’s been massively successful, but we do always have to look at what’s happening. If we have a Beta variant, or any other variants, which we’re trying to minimise the risk of through our cautious approach to travel, then, of course, we’ll have to take action.”

While much emphasis in the media may appear to be on the question of whether an Englishman can go to a bar and drink alcohol, public houses, many of which are centuries old, are cornerstones of their communities and are seen as symbolic of everyday life of people in Britain, so that to put restrictions on going to the pub is equivalent to restricting British society in a very fundamental way.

Likewise, nightclubs in recent decades have become the markers of youth, with Boris Johnson’s recent targeting of nightclubs — and in his own words, possibly travel and festivals — are seen as a target on the younger generations, which have a smaller vaccine uptake than older Britons.

Prominent lockdown sceptic Sir Desmond Swayne has warned not to dismiss the prospect of vaccine passports for nightclubs because those same restrictions could eventually be rolled out for entry to other venues that are more universally frequented.

Sir Desmond said on Monday: “People see this as an imposition on young people who would want to go to nightclubs, so they think, ‘Oh, well, it’s only them.’ This is an imposition on us all.”

“It is the Trojan Horse for an identity card system. Once you bring in requirements of this sort, they’re very, very difficult to remove,” he added.

Despite Keegan’s remarks that there would be no passports for pints, the government has said the same before — and then contradicted itself.

While then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock first mentioned the introduction of “immunity certificates” in April 2020, it wasn’t until late November that Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi said that the government was “looking at the technology” of vaccine passports, suggesting that even if the government did not mandate their use, hospitality venues — “restaurants, bars, and cinemas” — may demand the technology and bar entry to the unvaccinated.

On December 1st, Michael Gove MP was quick to tell the media that there would be no vaccine passports — specifically for going to the pub — and that “I certainly am not planning to introduce any vaccine passports and I don’t know anyone else in government [who is].” However, the Cabinet Office minister then became the government figure in charge of overseeing a review of the use of domestic vaccine passports, recently saying that “some form of certification” was “the right way to go”.

By February 2021, Prime Minister Johnson signalled that the government was looking at “COVID status certification”, listing theatres and pubs and venues where possibly such documents could be needed.

The following month saw Johnson’s position on domestic vaccine passports harden, saying “the basic concept of vaccine certification should not be totally alien to us”, adding, as per his colleague Mr Zahawi had suggested months before, that “individual publicans” may demand them.

However, April saw Johnson confirm that vaccine passports would not be needed when lockdown would start to be lifted that month, after reports of pressure from within his own party.

In July, vaccine passports for pubs attempted to make an entry through the backdoor when Johnson advised that like nightclubs, managers of pubs and restaurants should “consider the use of the NHS COVID Pass to reduce the risk of transmission at your venue or event”. That same month, media reported that the government was considering coronavirus passes for pubs to be implemented in the autumn.

.

Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.