People will not be required to take coronavirus tests or present vaccine passports when they attend live music venues and nightclubs from July 19 in a major victory for Britain’s devastated night-time economy and anti-lockdown campaigners, it emerged today.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove, who is leading a government review on the use of vaccine passports after lockdown ends, is understood to believe it will impose ‘too much hassle’ on the public and businesses to require tests to enjoy a live concert or a night’s dancing.
The announcement was hailed as a ‘godsend’ by relieved night-time economy leaders, with Simon Thomas, chief executive of the Hippodrome Casino in Leicester Square, telling the paper: ‘It’s time to get on with life and live with this virus as we’ve lived with others before.’
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, also welcomed the decision as he pointed out that smaller nightclubs would have lost trade to pubs and restaurants if they had been singled out by the Government for testing and vaccine certification.
‘If you are in a late-night London pub and thinking of going on to the club around the corner, there’s a good chance that having to take a test would make you question whether to bother,’ he added.
Downing Street had come under pressure from anti-lockdown Tory backbenchers to ditch compulsory vaccine passports amid concerns over the mandate’s privacy and civil liberty implications. Several large protests in recent months have also attracted anti-vaxxers opposed to the measure.
Mark Harper, Tory chair of the Covid Recovery Group of MPs, said: ‘With so many people receiving protection from the vaccines, the justification for Covid status certification is incredibly weak.’
Though tests may still be asked for by some organisers of mass gatherings, such as larger festivals and sporting fixtures, some believe that tests and passports could boost consumer confidence in big ticket purchases.
It comes amid mounting evidence of the success of the jabs roll-out in breaking the link between cases and hospitalisations and deaths, as well as pilot schemes which showed ‘no substantial outbreaks’ and strong compliance with anti-coronavirus measures.
Live music venues and nightclubs will reopen from July 19 without people having to take coronavirus tests or show vaccine passports in a major boost for Britain’s devastated night-time economy (stock image)
Department of Health bosses posted just 14 deaths, falling 26.3 per cent on last Wednesday’s figure of 19, in a clear sign of the vaccine effect in the face of climbing cases
Covid passports will not be compulsory at music festivals, sports events and other mass gatherings when lockdown restrictions are lifted next month
Another reason to speed up, Boris: More proof vaccines are working as Britain’s cases spike 62% in a week to 26,068 but deaths drop to 14 as Tory MPs, businesses and teachers call on PM to ‘go quicker’ and axe crippling self-isolation rules
Britain’s daily Covid deaths fell again today despite cases jumping by nearly 62 per cent in a week, as Tory MPs, businesses and teachers called on the Prime Minister to ‘go quicker’ and axe crippling self-isolation rules.
Department of Health bosses posted just 14 deaths, falling 26.3 per cent on last Wednesday’s figure of 19, in a clear sign of the vaccine effect in the face of climbing cases.
Covid cases have jumped to another five month high today, as the Indian variant continues to rip through Britain.
There were 26,068 infections today — the highest daily total since January 24, when there were 30,004 cases — increasing 61.6 per cent in seven days from 16,135. Britain recorded 610 deaths on January 24, 44 times today’s fatalities.
The UK has breached 20,000 cases a day for the last three days, earlier seeing its previous highest figure since January on Monday, when it recorded 22,868 infections.
Mr Johnson said at PMQs at lunchtime that he ‘devoutly hopes’ that ‘freedom day’ will go ahead as planned on July 19 and that the vaccine rollout means ‘we have a higher wall of vaccination than virtually any other country in the world’.
Britain dished out 137,991 first doses yesterday, taking the country’s total to 44.7 million — 84.9 per cent of the adult population. A further 150,688 second jabs were also given, meaning 32.9million (62.4 per cent) are fully vaccinated.
Live music industry body LIVE and theatre businesses including Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group had threatened legal action last week to force the publication of a Government report on the risk of transmission of the virus from attending mass events.
The industry leaders had claimed that the four-week extension of lockdown led to the cancellation of around 5,000 music concerts as well as theatre productions across the country – costing hundreds of millions of pounds in lost income.
However, it emerged today that Cabinet ministers have dropped the idea of imposing them on mass events – thought organisers will be permitted to run their own schemes, with the Premier League among those expected to introduce some form of certification to prove those attending football grounds do not pose a Covid risk.
The move comes amid growing confidence that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will press ahead with plans to lift social distancing rules next month despite a surge in coronavirus cases.
He told the Cabinet yesterday that our vaccination success means Britain will be able to ‘live with Covid’ because the link between virus cases and hospitalisations has been broken.
Yesterday saw another 20,479 cases – with the seven-day total up 70 per cent in a week – but one official source said the so-called Freedom Day would go ahead as planned even if cases are more than twice as high as they are now.
‘We need to get used to the idea of treating Covid more like flu,’ the source said. ‘People have the flu vaccine, which helps reduce serious illness, but we still get large numbers of cases and significant numbers of deaths.
‘When we get to July 19, cases look like they will be potentially very high, perhaps as many as 30,000 or 40,000 per day. But that is not in itself a reason not to go ahead, provided hospitalisations and deaths remain at relatively low levels.’
Hospital admissions have risen by just over 10 per cent in the last week, with an average daily death toll of 17 – less than 2 per cent of the levels seen in January. Another 23 deaths were announced yesterday.
A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘Cabinet agreed that once we have completed the road map, we will be able to live with Covid in the future – even if cases continue to rise – thanks to the protections provided by the vaccine.’
In what appeared to be a co-ordinated series of interventions, Mr Gove said people will have to live with Covid in ‘the way that we live with flu’, which claims thousands of deaths each winter but does not require society and the economy to be locked down.
Home Secretary Priti Patel also addressed the issue, saying Britons would have to ‘adapt’ to living with coronavirus. The shift follows the appointment of Sajid Javid as Health Secretary following disgraced Matt Hancock’s resignation after he was caught flouting social distancing measures he imposed with his mistress.
In a declaration of intent, Mr Javid used his first Commons appearance on Monday to drive home the message that it was time to ‘start returning to normal’ after 15 months of crippling curbs.
Ministers now look almost certain to lift the main social distancing measures on July 19 – but debates continue over whether to carry on asking people to wear masks on public transport and work from home.
One issue that appears to have been settled is that of Covid passports. Whitehall sources told the Mail that they will be shelved for domestic use, despite ongoing trials at Wimbledon and Wembley.
The move comes amid growing confidence that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will press ahead with plans to lift social distancing rules next month despite a surge in coronavirus cases. Pictured: the pitch during the Euro 2020 round of 16 football match between England and Germany at Wembley Stadium
People have non-socially distanced fun at a rave in Liverpool as part of the programme. Data published by local public health officials in Liverpool showed just 0.07 per cent of the more than 13,000 attendees across three events tested positive
The shift follows the appointment of Sajid Javid as Health Secretary following Matt Hancock’s resignation
Ministers previously announced that there were no coronavirus outbreaks at non-socially distanced mass events piloted in England, including the FA Cup final at Wembley and the Brit Awards.
Tens of thousands of Britons were given their first slice of freedom in more than a year at during the events in April and May. Attendees did not have to socially distance from strangers and all that was required to get in was a recent negative test.
Nine events were piloted in total, including the FA Cup final in front of 21,000 fans at Wembley, a live audience of 4,000 at the Brit awards, a nightclub in Liverpool which hosted 3,000, as well as three 10km outdoor runs for 6,000 athletes and spectators. The trial was designed to see if outbreaks could be avoided at mass events when the country was originally scheduled to unlock on June 21.
Data published by local public health officials in Liverpool – where four events were piloted – showed just 0.08 per cent of the more than 13,000 attendees tested positive.
Ministers now believe that the success of our vaccination programme means such measures will not be required across Britain this summer, avoiding another potential clash with MPs.
There were 26,068 infections today — the highest daily total since January 24, when there were 30,004 cases — increasing 61.6 per cent in seven days from 16,135. Britain recorded 610 deaths on January 24, 44 times today’s fatalities
‘It is looking unlikely that we will have to make Covid certification compulsory, even for mass events,’ a source said.
‘It will be needed for foreign travel and some events may choose to run their own schemes, but it does not look like we will need legislation at this stage. The work has not been wasted. It will be needed for travel and we will have a system in place which could be used if we need it in the winter.’
Indeed, plans for widespread use of the passports could be revived in the event of another major wave of Covid. This would allow venues to stay open even if cases soar dramatically.
No10 said the PM was ‘increasingly confident’ there would be no need for further delays to lifting curbs on our freedoms. Mr Johnson told the Cabinet that the latest data ‘shows cases continuing to rise but hospitalisations and deaths have seen a much shallower growth’.
Tory MP Siobhan Baillie welcomed the comments, saying: ‘We have to have a vaccine dividend. We have to get back to normal and learn to live with risk.’
Former minister Steve Baker sounded a note of caution over whether a review of social distancing led by Mr Gove could leave some restrictions in place after July 19. He told Sky News: ‘I want to know what actually the world is going to look like when we get our freedom back.’