‘Unfair Double Standard’: England To Require COVID Pass For Entry Into Live Venues

A group of women show their COVID passports as they enter La Belle Angele nightclub in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Scottish government's vaccine passport scheme came into effect in October, later negative tests were also allowed.
Peter Summers/Getty Images
– A group of women show their COVID passports as they enter La Belle Angele nightclub in Edinburgh, Scotland. The Scottish government’s vaccine passport scheme came into effect in October, later negative tests were also allowed.
Now, it’s the same in England.

England has moved into what the country’s decision makers call the Plan B response to coronavirus, in particular the new omicron variant.

The main changes: face coverings will be required in most indoor settings (from Dec. 10), work-from-home where possible, (Dec. 13), as well as the requirement to ask visitors above 18 years of age for proof of full vaccination, a negative test no older than 48 hours or some form of exemption if they want to enter certain venues and events.
England now has similar restrictions in place as the rest of the UK: Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the latter of which announced new measures a few days ago. Showing health proofs is also a requirement to enter venues in Ireland.
In England, the COVID pass has to be shown before entering nightclubs, dancehalls and discotheques; other late night dance venues that are open between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., serve alcohol during this time, have a dancefloor, and provide music, whether live or recorded, for dancing.
The COVID pass mandate also applies to indoor events with 500 or more unseated attendees, outdoor events with 4,000 or more unseated attendees, and any events with 10,000 or more attendees indoor or outdoor. People don’t have to wear the mask in any setting that allows for dancing (or other strenuous activity). 
Greg Parmley, CEO of UK industry body LIVE, said the UK government’s Plan B resulted “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.”
The UK live sector has done a lot to assist the government in its fight against coronavirus, including setting up vaccination centers at festivals.
Jacob King/PA Images via Getty Images
– The UK live sector has done a lot to assist the government in its fight against coronavirus, including setting up vaccination centers at festivals.
This vaccination bus was set up at Latitude festival in Henham Park, Suffolk, in July.

As LIVE points out, “the live music industry has gone above and beyond throughout the pandemic to ensure that they reduce the possible transmission of COVID-19 at their events.” Efforts included “pushing the Government to include live music events such as festivals in the Events and Research Programme (ERP), enabling the collection of accurate scientific evidence on Covid-19 transmission.”

Individuals working with live have been in constant consultation with government officials across the UK to create the best possible industry guidance prior to the sector’s July 19 reopening. The sector has been running campaigns to encourage fans to take a test before and after attending events, even if they have been fully vaccinated. 
The sector has also been partnering with the UK governments to support efforts to promote vaccination, particularly to younger age groups, which involved social media and e-mail campaigns, as well as the provision of vaccination points at some events.
“Since reopening, and without the legal requirement to, hundreds of live events have used the NHS Covid Pass for entry, with a recent test or proof of double vaccination required for entry,” LIVE points out, the sector is therefore aware of the complications such a requirement brings with it, most importantly: costs in a phase when the sector as a whole is already struggling. 
LIVE has found that, for arena shows, the costs to employ the additional staff required to check people’s health status averages £2,000 per show.
The inevitable reduction in attendees will make it harder for most live shows to break even and remain financially viable, for which they require an attendance of between 89% – 90% capacity.  
England had opened for unrestricted business since July 19.
Joseph Okpako/WireImage
– England had opened for unrestricted business since July 19.
Here’s a general view of the crowd at the Wizkid performance at The O2, London, Dec. 1.

The UK’s Music Venue Trust (MVT) said in a statement that it was pleased the government kept the option of negative tests as means of entry in its Plan B response. MVT had surveyed its Scottish members, which at the time were operating under a vaccine-only rule, and found that respondents reported a 41% decline in trade since the introduction of vaccine passports.

What is more, 33% of existing ticket holders did not attend their events, 27% of customers that tried to enter were refused due to lack of evidence of full certification, and 61% of customers would have been refused had venues strictly implemented the full terms of the restrictions, which wasn’t enforced by the government in the initial rollout in Scotland, but will be now.   
The UK government hasn’t offered to compensate for the additional staffing needs at a time when the live music industry is reeling from the loss of 80% of its annual revenues. There’s also no guidance on how the COVID pass scheme could work in practice to allow venues to prepare.   
“It is not acceptable to use our industry as an incentive to drive up vaccine rates when it has such a dramatic impact on our ability to generate revenue,” the LIVE statement reads.
The Royal Albert has been back in business since England lifted all coronavirus restrictions on July 19.
Christie Goodwin/Redferns
– The Royal Albert has been back in business since England lifted all coronavirus restrictions on July 19.
This general view of the auditorium shows Black Stone Cherry performing on Sept. 29, 2021.

Craig Hassall, Chief Executive of the Royal Albert Hall, also commented on the UK’s Plan B. The Hall just had to pull its main event in the 2021 Christmas season – a Dec. 16 headline performance from German tenor Jonas Kaufmann – due to COVID travel restrictions that made it impossible for the German State Philharmonic to come to London.

The new entry restrictions feel like a double blow to the venue, as Hassall explained. “It has been wonderful to be back,” he said, referring to the fact that the UK had been back to business as usual since July 19. “More than anything else,” he continued, “what we want now is to be able to stand on our own two feet and put on incredible events for audiences once again. After an understandably slow start in terms of sales, we have been playing to full houses for several months and providing our public with a welcome respite from the gloom of the pandemic.
“These twin setbacks are really bad news for us. Owing to the current restrictions and imminent further changes, the German State Philharmonic orchestra and other performers can’t travel to perform in London, and sadly it isn’t possible to rehearse with another orchestra at this late stage. We are so sorry to disappoint Jonas’s many fans and hope that we can welcome audiences back to the Hall if the concert is rescheduled or for another event this Christmas season.”
He added that the venue would respond proactively to Plan B but had reservations about the government’s lack of forethought regarding the live events sector. “We will always follow government guidance, and in line with the implementation of Plan B, we will institute even tighter measures to ensure the safety of audiences, including increased Covid certification checks. At the same time, we are concerned that the government is damaging audience confidence at an absolutely critical time for the culture sector,” Hassall concluded.
Michael Kill, CEO of the UK’s Night Time Industries Associationn, commented: “Vaccine passports have a damaging impact on Night Time Economy businesses, as we seen in other parts of the UK where they have been implemented. Trade is down 30% in Scotland and 26% in Wales following their implementation. 
“The UK Government have twice ruled out Vaccine Passports before twice changing their mind. The pre-Christmas period is absolutely crucial for our sector and reports today that Plan B including Vaccine Passports will have a devastating impact on a sector already so bruised by the pandemic.”
As Kill emphasized, “the Government’s own report on the subject concluded that vaccine passports wouldn’t even have a significant impact on virus transmission. 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?” He’s referring to news reports that revealed that the very politicians telling the public to stay at home and not visit friends and families last Christmas, were having a party themselves. 
“Nightclubs and bars must not be thrown under the bus for the Prime Minister to save his own skin,” Kill said, “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?’”