Boris Johnson is facing a huge backlash over his plans to make full coronavirus vaccination compulsory for entry to nightclubs and other crowded venues.
The prime minister made the announcement on so-called “Freedom Day” on Monday that, from the end of September, people going to venues with large crowds will need proof they have had two COVID-19 jabs, and that a negative test will no longer be sufficient.
The move was criticised by nightclubs, which have just been allowed to reopen for the first time since March last year, opposition MPs and those in his own party.
It came as the government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said nightclubs had the potential to cause “super spreading events”.
Night Time Industries Association chief executive Michael Kill accused the government of “an absolute shambles”.
“So, ‘Freedom Day’ for nightclubs lasted around 17 hours then,” he said, adding that 80% of nightclubs have said they do want to implement COVID vaccine passports.
Mark Harper, the Conservative former chief whip who chairs the COVID Recovery Group of Tory lockdown-sceptics, criticised the plans as “effectively moving to compulsory vaccination”.
Labour’s shadow health minister Justin Madders said: “How can it be safe to go to nightclubs now, with no protective measures, if in September it will require double jab status? It makes no sense.”
Sir Patrick said of nightclubs: “There’s no question that that is an environment in which spreading is easier, you’ve got lots of people quite close together, you’ve got the environment in which spreading becomes easier.
“And I would expect that with opening of nightclubs, we’ll continue to see an increase in cases and we will see outbreaks related to specific nightclubs as well.”
Johnson said: “I don’t want to have to close nightclubs again as they have elsewhere, but it does mean nightclubs need to do the socially responsible thing and make use of the NHS COVID pass.
“I should serve notice now that by the end of September, when all over-18s will have had their chance to be double jabbed, we are planning to make full vaccination the condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather.”
The prime minister refused to rule out extending vaccine passports to pubs.
“I certainly don’t want to see passports for pubs,” he said, but added that in enclosed crowded places with close social contact “we reserve the right to do what is necessary to protect the public”.
But on Tuesday, junior business minister Paul Scully contradicted this, telling Sky News that “crowded pubs” would not be included in plans to use vaccine passports.
On Tuesday, former Supreme Court justice Lord Sumption said vaccine passports are “completely unnecessary”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I don’t think vaccine passports imposed by the state are a good idea now.
“Earlier this year, when fewer people had been vaccinated, I thought that there was something to be said for allowing those who had been to prove the fact and return to normal life.
“But at the moment, with 70% having had both jabs, including all vulnerable groups, I think it is completely unnecessary.”
Watch: Boris Johnson says vaccine passports for nightclubs required by end of September