Government plans to make the NHS Covid pass mandatory in nightclubs and venues where large crowds gather have been criticised as “devastating news” for the sector.
Boris Johnson told a Downing Street press conference that from a week’s time, individuals will need certification to access such spaces.
The Prime Minister also confirmed mandatory mask wearing will be extended to public places like cinemas and theatres from Friday.
Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said the announcement came at the “worst possible time”.
He said: “Today’s announcement of Plan B by the Government is devastating news for the nightlife sector.
“Vaccine Passports have a damaging impact on Night Time Economy businesses, as we have seen in other parts of the UK where they have been implemented like Scotland – where trade is down 30% – and Wales, where it down 26%.
“The UK Government have twice ruled out Vaccine Passports before twice changing their mind. The mixed public health messages this week that have been coming out of the Government have arrived at the worst possible time – the pre-Christmas period is absolutely crucial for our sector. And now it is announced damaging Vaccine Passports are to be implemented.
“Far from ‘saving’ Christmas, the Prime Minister has given our sector the horrible present of more pain for businesses desperately trying to recoup losses from earlier in the pandemic.
“The fact that businesses have only been given one week to make such an enormous change to their operating model is an additional insult.”
A Government report in June concluded that, at the time, the negative impacts of introducing vaccine passports outweighed the public health benefits, and suggested they could also discourage people from attending venues.
Citing that report, Mr Kill added: “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?
“It feels that nightclubs and bars have been thrown under the bus by the Prime Minister for him to save his own skin.”
During the press conference, Mr Johnson had also faced questions about allegations Downing Street staff broke Covid rules in a Christmas party last year.
Greg Parmley, chief executive of music industry trade body LIVE, said the new rules would have a disproportionate impact on the sector.
He said: “The introduction of Plan B results is 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 Music Venue Trust, which works to protect grassroots spaces, praised the Government’s decision to include negative lateral flow tests among its list of accepted certifications for entry.
Chief executive Mark Davyd said: “Whilst this is obviously a blow to the progress in the battle against the virus, we are pleased that the Government has listened to the grassroots music venue sector and adopted a Covid Pass policy that recognises testing.
“MVT’s #TakeaTest policy has been extremely successful in limiting infection incidents in grassroots music venues, and we welcome the news that this has been recognised in the new policy.”
Jon Morgan, director of the Theatres Trust, said the Government’s new guidance to work from home where possible will hit the sector in the run-up to Christmas.
He said: “The new work from home advice is understandable in light of rising Covid-19 cases and the new Omicron variant, however it will have a big impact on the willingness of people to travel and go to theatres over Christmas.
“This will have a knock-on effect on theatres’ viability at a vital time of year for the industry and Christmas shows that are just emerging from the significant loss of revenue in 2020 and early 2021.
“Theatres have put in place fully risk assessed precautions to ensure their productions and audiences are safe, and we hope that the promising audience trends we have seen over the late summer and early autumn can continue but new work from home guidance puts this at risk.
“We hope the remaining Culture Recovery Fund money can be targeted swiftly to help theatres through this difficult period.”