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Coronavirus: Hospitality industry dismisses Johnson's pub vaccine plan as 'unworkable’

Saleha Riaz
·3-min read
Boris Johnson had said requiring to see proof of vaccination was “the kind of thing – it may be up to individual publicans, it may be up to the landlord.
Boris Johnson had said requiring to see proof of vaccination was “the kind of thing – it may be up to individual publicans, it may be up to the landlord." Photo: Getty Images

UK prime minister Boris Johnson's suggestion that pubs can choose to stop patrons from entering if they have not been vaccinated has been dismissed as “unworkable” by UKHospitality.

The trade body cautioned “that a voluntary scheme would create confusion and inequality among businesses, customers and staff and would act as a de-facto open ended delay to the reopening process.”

It added such an initiative “would be unworkable, cause conflict and could be counter to equality rules.”

Johnson had said requiring to see proof of vaccination was “the kind of thing – it may be up to individual publicans, it may be up to the landlord."

His remarks suggested the government will not intervene if pubs, or even other venues and companies, decide to ask for a vaccine certificate before allowing people in.

Pubs which ask customers to show their COVID-19 status, which could be in the form of a modified NHS app, could be allowed to drop social distancing rules. That would be a profitable incentive for pubs, as well as for citizens to get a test, the Guardian reported.

It also quoted Labour shadow business secretary, Ed Miliband, as saying that the choice should not be left up to the "discretion” of pub landlords.

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“I don’t think that’s really the thing that is going to persuade people to get the vaccine. I think we’ve done brilliantly in this country at rolling out the vaccine and people taking up the vaccine and the key thing is a campaign of persuasion for people to take up the vaccine,” he said.

Ministers in the past have also said that forcing people to reveal such information was "discriminatory" and against British values.

UKHospitality CEO Kate Nicholls said such a system "could potentially give rise to a two-tier system of viability among businesses and a situation in which young staff members, due to be vaccinated last, are able to work in a pub, but not able to visit it socially.”

She added such a move “would put businesses owners in a hugely invidious position and has the potential to effectively impose further unnecessary restrictions on businesses that cannot or will not operate a passport scheme.”

There has also been some concern that pub owners could end up turning away people from ethnic minorities whose vaccine uptake has been lower.

Meanwhile, Nicholls said a vaccine passport system may be useful for opening up international travel and hosting large-scale events in the near future, but it should not be used for day-to-day hospitality.

The UK has been reviewing the idea of vaccine certificates to allow access to travel, hospitality and entertainment and discussing the best way to proceed in terms of fairness, business minister Kwarsi Kwarteng had earlier said.

According to recent government figures, more than 26 million people in the UK have had their first dose of the vaccine.

Johnson had earlier set out a four-step plan to begin "cautiously but irreversibly" easing restrictions as the UK vaccine rollout gathers pace.

Step three included the opening up of international travel and indoor door hospitality venues such as restaurants, pubs, cafes and bars, as well as theatres, hotels, B&Bs and sports stadia, which will have to wait until at least 17 May to see restrictions lifted.

Pubs have been hit hard by the pandemic. The UK hospitality industry and non-essential retail have been shuttered for months at a time, while the country gets caseloads of COVID-19 under control.

In November it was reported that almost three quarters of UK pubs and restaurants expect to shut permanently this year.

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