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Pubs, theatres, sport events dealt a blow as UK government puts pin in vaccine passport idea

Lucy Harley-McKeown
·3-min read
Britain's Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove arrives to attend a cabinet meeting at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London, Britain November 10, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Britain's Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove arrives to attend a cabinet meeting at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London, Britain November 10, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Pubs, theatres and sport events were dealt a blow on Tuesday morning as senior minister Michael Gove denied that the government would plan a system of vaccine passports when a coronavirus vaccine is rolled out nationally.

The idea would see those without a COVID-19 vaccination prevented from going to the pub or attending events — a scheme that could see the economy reopening faster.

Gove told Sky News this morning: “I certainly am not planning to introduce any vaccine passports and I don’t know anyone else in government (who is).”

Nadhim Zadhawi, the minister in charge of vaccines, said on Monday he expects that people who refuse the vaccine may be barred entry to some bars, restaurants, cinemas and sports venues.

He told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: “We are looking at the technology, and of course a way of people being able to inform GP if they have been vaccinated.”

“Restaurants, bars, cinemas and other venues, sports venues, will probably also use that system as they have done with the app.”

Pubs, theatres and sports events have been among the businesses hit hard by coronavirus lockdowns.

To avoid the spread of infections it is thought that theatres may have to operate at a third of their full capacity.

READ MORE: Nearly a third of Britain's licensed premises were forced to shut in October

Pubs have already had to adapt or face crippling fines, as restrictions over the summer stipulated people could only meet in groups if they sat outside.

In October, nearly a third of Britain's licensed premises were forced to shut. A study by consultancies CGA and AlixPartners showed that 69.9% of Britain’s licensed premises were trading at the end of October 2020, a fall of more than ten percentage points on sites open a month earlier (80.4%), and equivalent to nearly 12,000 sites closing their doors that month.

Earlier this week the boss of pub chain JD Wetherspoon (JDW.L) urged MPs to vote down England’s new regional coronavirus restrictions, which will be decided in a Commons vote on Tuesday.

The vast majority of England’s pubs will fall in Tier 2, which leaves them only able to serve alcohol alongside food, and Tier 3, which means a shutdown other than takeaway provision.

Under new government mandate, around 32 million people will be placed into Tier 2, which means pubs and restaurants in their area must only sell alcohol with a "substantial meal."

WATCH: What is a substantial meal? Minister says scotch egg counts as pubs brace for tier change

Tim Martin, founder and chair of the leading UK pub chain, claimed the UK government had “effectively closed all pubs in England by stealth,” as curbs will continue despite lockdown easing on Wednesday.

The pub group said Martin had written to prime minister Boris Johnson, copying in every MP, calling restrictions on trade “economically ruinous.”

The same day, founder of one of the UK's largest pub chains Punch Taverns, Hugh Osmond, said in a talkRadio interview that "many pubs and restaurants will just die" if the government "keep these utterly ridiculous, unjustifiable, non-evidence based restrictions in place.”

Dozens of Conservative MPs are also reported to be critical of the latest restrictions, with a backbench rebellion expected on Tuesday.

But the prime minister and cabinet members have warned new curbs are essential to reduce infections, and faced criticism from scientists for loosening curbs over Christmas.

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