England today moved one step closer to having to use Covid vaccine passports after No10 confirmed venues will be told to implement the highly-controversial measure if the NHS comes under ‘unsustainable pressure’ this autumn or winter.
Ministers dramatically ditched plans to adopt certification rules for nightclubs and other major venues following a huge Tory outcry earlier this month.
But in unveiling his winter plan to fight off another surge in infections, Boris Johnson admitted restrictions such as vaccine passports would be ‘kept in reserve’.
Now the Government has confirmed passports will still form part of its ‘Plan B’.
Vaccine certificates will be required for people attending nightclubs, music venues, festivals and sports grounds, in the event of a fourth wave overwhelming the NHS.
Plan A — the country’s first line of defence — banks on dishing out booster vaccines to protect the vulnerable and jabbing children.
Plan B — which ministers hope will be enough to stop the country from succumbing to another full-blown lockdown — also includes re-enforcing face masks indoors and work from home guidance.
Proposals published by the Department of Health have now revealed more details of the passport scheme, and warn it could be implemented ‘at short notice in response to concerning data’.
Health Minister Maggie Throup argued the vaccine rollout has ’tilted the odds in our favour’, but said the Government must be ‘prepared for all scenarios’.
Scotland already announced vaccine passports would be mandatory for over-18s in crowded settings from October 1. But plans for the measures in England were halted following backlash from Tory MPs, who called them ‘coercive and discriminatory’.
Vaccine passports will be required for those attending nightclubs, music venues, festivals and sports grounds in England under the Government’s plans if a fourth wave overwhelms the NHS
The Plan B proposals draw on the findings of a review into vaccine passports earlier this year, which concluded that certification could help keep events going and businesses open.
The Department of Health document set out how over-18s going to certain events could be required to be fully vaccinated.
Weekly Covid deaths in the UK in mid-September breach 1,000 for first time since MARCH
Weekly Covid deaths in the UK breached 1,000 in mid-September for the first time since March, official figures revealed today.
This was the highest weekly toll since the week ending March 12 (1,637), when the devastating second wave was beginning to recede. The figure includes any fatalities with Covid mentioned on the death certificate, including cases where it was not the main cause of death.
Meanwhile, official data also revealed more than 70,000 extra deaths have occurred at home in both England and Wales since pandemic began.
Despite the slight uptick in Covid deaths for the UK as a whole, the number of fatalities registered dipped slightly in England and Wales (851). But this was skewed by last week’s count (857), which was higher than usual due to a lag in registering deaths on the August bank holiday, which fell in the previous seven-day spell.
The UK-wide rise was fuelled by Scotland, which saw the number of deaths rise by 80 per cent. It suffered an explosion of Covid cases following the return of schools in mid-August.
The events listed are all nightclubs and other venues open after 1am with alcohol, music, and dancing.
Indoor events with more than 500 attendees – such as concerts – would also have to check vaccination status, if people are going to be in close proximity to other households.
Even outdoor venues – including festivals – would be hit with the measures if there are more than 4,000 attendees.
And any location with more than 10,000 people attending – such as music and sports stadiums – would also have to comply.
But certain events would be except from having to use the Covid pass, including places of worship, wedding ceremonies, funerals and other commemorative events.
Staff aged over 18 could also be required to test regularly if they are not double-jabbed or exempt from getting a coronavirus vaccine.
The proposals are pending consultation, and could capture even more settings, as the Government is asking if its proposals are ‘too narrow’.
The Government is asking for views from businesses, event organisers, and venue operators on its proposals by October 12.
But it encouraged responses to be submitted sooner in case vaccine passports need to be introduced at short notice.
Ministers ‘would seek to give businesses at least one week’s notice’ before implementing the scheme.
Ms Throup said: ‘Our autumn and winter plan puts us on a sure footing and gives the whole country the best possible chance of living with Covid in the months ahead, without the need for unwanted social and economic restrictions.
‘The vaccine programme has tilted the odds in our favour in our shared fight against this virus and while we are totally confident the careful steps we are taking will help rule out the need for mandatory vaccine certificates, we need to be prepared for all scenarios.
‘We know these kinds of contingency plans will only work if businesses and the public get to have their say and I’m urging everyone who could have to use certification: give us your views, give us your ideas.’
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said earlier this month that pressures on A&E and increasing hospital admissions could trigger the Plan B.
The Government said it continues to encourage the voluntary use of certification and the NHS Covid Pass.
More than 200 events and venues used certification on a voluntary basis over the summer, including matches in the Premier League, festivals such as the Reading and Leeds Festivals and All Points East, some nightclubs, and the BBC Proms.