'It will hinder business' - event organisers on Covid passports
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Nightclub owners and organisers of large events say guidance to use vaccine passports could be another blow to an already hard-hit industry.
Addressing the House of Commons on Monday afternoon, health secretary Sajid Javid said that while most legal restrictions would be eased on July 19, event organisers would be encouraged to ask attendees to show so-called vaccine passports.
The passport shows that a person either has natural immunity after contracting Covid, that they are double-jabbed or that they have tested negative for the virus - and is available through the NHS app.
Organisers will not be legally required to ask for the proof, because the government’s guidance is not mandatory, but prime minister Boris Johnson said it would be "a matter of social responsibility".
In published guidance, the government has said it "reserves the right" to force venues to require people to show their vaccine passport as a condition of entrance.
Rick Lennox, manager at the 900-capacity Epic Studios venue in Norwich, said: "It's going to be really difficult.
"Obviously I want everyone to be safe, but it would mean us turning a lot of people away, because I think a lot of people won't get them, especially younger ones," said Mr Lennox, acknowledging that many younger people will not yet have received their second jab for some weeks to come.
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He added: "We'll be having a discussion about it on Tuesday. We'll look at everything, but it does seem rather controversial at the moment... It's obvious that it will hinder business - without a doubt."
Julie Briggs, founding director at event organisers Clear Company, said: "The past year has been nothing short of challenging and very turbulent. There's been a lot of anxieties among visitors to events and we want to make sure everyone is safe. That's obviously every events organiser's priority.
She added: "The difficulty with any of the conversations surrounding [vaccine] passports is that there are people who are going to be really opposed to it.
"Even now, we have people turning up and saying they don't want to track and trace. A lot of people do, but a lot of people don't necessarily - they're fed up with it.
"The important thing is that it's properly thought through and that for events organisers and for the public there's a lot of information provided.
"So far, it's gone from very clear guidance, to 'use your common sense'.
"If the parameters are too vague, it causes so much confusion, and sometimes animosity, when you're asking the public to do things and they ask why."
Ms Briggs also pointed out: "It's going to be tricky for people who don't want to be vaccinated.
"I'm not saying people should or shouldn't be vaccinated - it's an individual's right to decide - however, it's going to be difficult for people to attend anything if they have to have a passport, so there's going to be a whole conversation surrounding that and I just wonder how we're supposed to deal with that.
"If it's not properly thought through - we're going to have to have those conversations at the entry point."
The fact that passports had not been made mandatory came as relief to the industry.
The Music Venue Trust said the charity, which has campaigned for government support and identified venues at risk of closure during the pandemic, including the Brickmakers on Norwich's Sprowston Road, said it "warmly welcomes" the return to full capacity concerts next week.
It said: "For the last 12 months, we have been working tirelessly alongside venue operators to identify ways in which they can reopen every venue safely. That work remains at the forefront of everyone's minds, but today we want to reach out to live music fans and send them a simple message: It's finally time to revive live."