Plans for vaccine passports for pub visits branded ‘discriminatory and unworkable’

25 March 2021, 11:51 | Updated: 25 March 2021, 13:11

By Kate Buck

There has been a backlash over suggestions pub patrons will could need to show a Covid-19 vaccine certificate before being allowed into their favourite watering hole.

Boris Johnson made the suggestion on Wednesday while being grilled by MPs on the Commons Liaison Committee, much to the dismay of pub workers and trade bodies.

The boss of the Shepherd Neame chain said on Thursday that making jabs mandatory for entry to pubs is a "fairly poorly thought out idea", as ministers review the possible use of health certificates.

Read more: 'Where will it end?' -Nick Ferrari hits out at vaccine passport for pubs

Clive Watson, founder of City Pub Group, said introducing mandatory vaccines to pubs would be "absolutely chaotic and discriminatory".

He said: "If you can't require all hauliers coming into the country to have vaccine passports it is mad to suggest someone might need one to go to the pub.

"It's discriminatory and a lot of people, including myself, have had a vaccine but haven't got a way to immediately prove it.

"The paperwork would be an absolute nightmare."

Mr Watson added that around 90% of his workforce are under 40 and would therefore "not work operationally either".

Speaking on Thursday, the Prime Minister said the review into coronavirus health certificates is expected by April 12, although it may not be possible to roll them out until everyone has been offered a jab.

The Prime Minister told broadcasters: "I do think there is going to be a role for certification.

"What we said is we'll be reporting on the work of the certification group in early April, either on April 5 or April 12.

"There are lots of difficult issues because there are some people who for medical reasons can't get a vaccination, pregnant women can't get a vaccination at the moment, you've got to be careful about how you do this.

"You might only be able to implement a thorough-going vaccination passport scheme even if you wanted such a thing in the context of when absolutely everybody had been offered a vaccine."

The Prime Minister said that it may be left up to "individual publicans" to decide whether or not to ask potential customers for domestic vaccine passports before entering their establishment.

The government is currently considering the introduction of documents that provide proof an individual has either been vaccinated against Covid-19 or tested negative for the virus.

Combining the two is understood to be one option being considered to avoid discriminating against those who decline the jab for personal reasons, such as their health or culture.

Conservative MP William Wragg, chairman of the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, asked Mr Johnson if "Covid vaccine certification" could be required for pub-goers.

The UK leader replied: "I think that that's the kind of thing - it may be up to individual publicans, it may be up to the landlord."

Read more: PM defends Covid response during fierce grilling by senior MPs

Read more: Pubs and restaurants to be allowed to serve outdoors from April

Read more: Tighter borders with France could be introduced 'very soon', PM says

Pubs could ask punters to provide vaccine passports before entering the venue
Pubs could ask punters to provide vaccine passports before entering the venue. Picture: PA

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has been tasked with leading a review into the possible use of coronavirus status certificates as part of the roadmap for easing England's lockdown restrictions.

On Wednesday, Mr Johnson told MPs that the "concept of vaccine certification should not be totally alien to us" as he referred to the requirement of doctors to be vaccinated against hepatitis B.

However, Tory MP and former minister Steve Baker warned that it could create a "two-tier Britain" for those who are unable to take up the vaccine for medical reasons.

The deputy chairman of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory lockdown sceptics said: "The prime minister began to tread a dangerous path when he opened the door to domestic Covid certificates.

"First they said we'll need them to watch the football, and today that it may be papers for the pub.

"Whether the state legislates for it, recommends it or simply allows it, the result will be the same: a two-tier Britain that prevents pregnant women from taking part in society, given that the government is telling them not to take the vaccine, or one where we turn back the clock and tolerate businesses turning away customers from communities which have shown an unfortunate hesitancy to take up the offer of a vaccine.

"We must not fall into this ghastly trap."