'An unfair double standard': Live music sector reacts to government's Plan B on Covid rules

'An unfair double standard': Live music sector reacts to government's Plan B on Covid rules

Vaccine passports will be compulsory for entry to nightclubs and large venues from next week.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced tonight (December 8) that the government is moving to its Plan B back-up plan of extra Covid rules. The tightening of restrictions is aimed at slowing the spread of the Omicron variant.

“It’s not a lockdown, it’s Plan B,” said Johnson at a press conference in Downing Street.

Face masks will be compulsory in public venues such as cinemas and theatres from Friday (December 10), and the guidance is to work from home where possible from Monday (December 13).

The NHS Covid Pass will become mandatory for entry into nightclubs and venues from Wednesday (December 15). Alongside the vaccine programme, testing is also a key part of the plan to control the spread of the virus, especially because of the increased transmissibility of the Omicron variant.

Subject to parliamentary approval, the NHS Covid Pass on the NHS app will become mandatory for entry into nightclubs and settings where large crowds gather. This includes unseated indoor events with 500 or more attendees, unseated outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees and any event with 10,000 or more attendees.

People will be able to demonstrate proof of two vaccine doses via the app. Proof of a negative lateral flow test will also be accepted.

Mark Dayvd, CEO of Music Venue Trust, which represents over 900 grassroots music venues, said: “Whilst this is obviously a blow to the progress in the battle against the virus, we are pleased that the government has listened to the grassroots music venue sector and adopted a Covid Pass policy that recognises testing. MVT’s #TakeaTest policy has been extremely successful in limiting infection incidents in grassroots music venues, and we welcome the news that this has been recognised in the new policy.”

It feels that nightclubs have been thrown under the bus by the Prime Minister

Michael Kill

However, there are concerns in the sector that live music is facing unreasonable measures.

Greg Parmley, CEO of LIVE, said: “The introduction of Plan B results in an unfair double standard that allows people to go on all-day pub crawls in crowded bars without having to prove their Covid-19 status, whilst live music venues get hit with certification.

“Across the country, music venues and events already have tried, tested and workable systems in place to ensure that live events continue to be safe – and these remain effective. However, after such a prolonged closure throughout the pandemic it is important the industry is able to remain open and  that the government have listened to the industry and included the use of lateral flow testing in covid certification.” 

For nightclubs, the rule change has proved particularly unwelcome at a busy time of year.

Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, said: “Today’s announcement of Plan B by the government is devastating news for the nightlife sector. Vaccine passports have a damaging impact on night time economy businesses, as we have seen in other parts of the UK where they have been implemented like Scotland – where trade is down 30% - and Wales, where it is down 26%. The UK government have twice ruled out vaccine passports before twice changing their mind. 

“The mixed public health messages this week that have been coming out of the government have arrived at the worst possible time – the pre-Christmas period is absolutely crucial for our sector. And now it is announced damaging vaccine passports are to be implemented. Far from ‘saving’ Christmas, the Prime Minister has given our sector the horrible present of more pain for businesses desperately trying to recoup losses from earlier in the pandemic.”

He added: “The government’s own report on the subject concluded that vaccine passports wouldn’t even have a significant impact on virus transmission – they don’t stop the spread of covid but they do damage trade. You do, therefore, have to question the timing and rationale for this announcement. Is this sound evidence-based public policy making or is this an attempt to move the news agenda on from a damaging story about the Downing St Christmas party? It feels that nightclubs and bars have been thrown under the bus by the Prime Minister for him to save his own skin.”

“And of course these businesses, who have already sacrificed so much during the pandemic, will be asking – ‘why are we being asked to carry more of the burden when it seemed that the most senior government officials felt they didn’t need to do their bit?’”

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