The opportunity for hospitality businesses to operate without social distancing is being dangled in front of licensees, but there could be a trade-off – customers would be required to show a ‘coronavirus certificate’ better know as a vaccine passport, if UK government leaks are to be believed.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested, when asked during last weeks House of Commons Liaison committee, that the use of vaccine passports in pubs would be “up to the individual publican,”
However, UKHospitality has warned against the use of a vaccine passport scheme as a condition of removing restrictions.
The trade body has cautioned that a voluntary scheme would create confusion and inequality among businesses, customers and staff and would act as a de-facto open-ended delay to the reopening process.
UKH has also opposed the introduction of a mandatory passport scheme that would be unworkable, cause conflict and could be counter to equality rules.
UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said, “There is a concern among businesses that the eventual rolling back of restrictions, vital to business survival, may be linked to the use of a vaccine passport scheme. That cannot be allowed to happen. It would put businesses owners in a hugely invidious position and has the potential to effectively impose further unnecessary restrictions on businesses that cannot or will not operate a passport scheme.
“It is crucial that visiting the pub and other parts of hospitality should not be subject to mandatory vaccination certification. It is simply unworkable, would cause conflict between staff and customers and almost certainly result in breaches of equality rules.
“Even introduced on a voluntary basis, vaccine passports have the potential to cause huge amounts of confusion among businesses, customers and staff. It could potentially give rise to a two-tier system of viability among businesses and a situation in which young staff members, due to be vaccinated last, are able to work in a pub, but not able to visit it socially.
“A vaccine passport system may be useful in opening up international travel more quickly and it might play a role at large-scale events in the near future, but it should not be used for day-to-day hospitality. A vaccine passport scheme in pubs and the wider hospitality sector would not be the liberating move the Prime Minister believes it to be. It would see further restrictions imposed at the worst possible time.”
However, others do not feel quite as strongly. If passports were required to negate social distancing many licensees would opt for the passports. Said one, “Obviously the preference is to be open without social distancing and without the need for vaccine passports. But if it is a choice between social distancing and passports I think it should be up to the individual licensee to make that choice. It may allow businesses to open that, if social distancing is still in place, could not.”
While John Burns of Bloc+ comments, “Personally I think if we want to get our industry opened in the short-term there are three options for customers: either show you have been vaccinated or have had a test within 72 hours – or show you are exempt. I think this would be fair. We are asking people to prove they are not carrying the virus and an app on the phone could show us this. Not everyone will be happy, but you cannot please all of the people all of the time. It’s not just about protecting our customers it is about protecting staff too. I have a duty of care to both.”
He continued, “It would be a disaster if we had to close again. We really can’t afford another lockdown.”