Government accused of using prospect of vaccine passports as distraction tactic

08 December 2021 by
Government accused of using prospect of vaccine passports as distraction tactic

The government has been accused of using the possibility of introducing vaccine passports as a distraction tactic from reports a party took place in Downing Street last Christmas, just two days after hospitality businesses in some areas of the UK were forced to close.

It has been reported ministers are discussing whether to introduce vaccine passports for entry to large venues and to advise people to work from home to prevent the spread of the new Omicron variant of coronavirus.

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night-Time Industries Association (NTIA), pointed out that the pre-Christmas period will be "crucial" for the sector and vaccine passports would have "a devastating impact on a sector already so bruised by the pandemic".

Trade has been down approximately 30% in Scotland and 26% in Wales following their implementation.

Kill added: "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 Street Christmas party? Nightclubs and bars must not be thrown under the bus for the prime minister to save his own skin.

"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?'"

Restaurants, pubs and bars across the country saw takings slump by almost 80% between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day last year as coronavirus restrictions forced thousands of venues to close for eat-in dining.

The majority of England moved into the strictest Tier 3 and Tier 4 coronavirus restrictions on 26 December, meaning hospitality venues had to close except for takeaway and delivery.

Pubs, restaurants and bars in London as well as areas of Essex and Hertfordshire were forced to cancel bookings, work out what to do with stocks of food and drink, and furlough staff when the government moved them into Tier 3 and told them to close their doors with just over 24 hours' notice on 16 December – two days before the Downing Street party supposedly took place. From then and during Christmas, people in these areas were not allowed to mix indoors with anyone outside their household or bubble.

"So fucking angry, our business closed, couldn't see my grandchildren's first Christmas," posted Peach Pubs operations director Chris Stagg on Twitter. Jonathan Downey, former owner of London establishments including Milk & Honey and Dinerama, said the "pointless restrictions" were "designed only to distract".

Adam Brooks, owner of Essex pubs the Owl in Loughton and the Three Colts in Buckhurst Hill, posted: "My businesses were getting crushed, as were most people in mine and other industries. People couldn't go to funerals or hospitals to say goodbye to loved ones, people lost houses and livelihoods. This is where we finally say #EnoughIsEnough."

Loungers chairman and co-founder, Alex Reilley, also posted on Twitter: "Boris and co's overreaction to Omicron has been nothing more than a desperate attempt to detract from the scandal and staggering incompetence of this lying, piss-taking, shambles of a government. Whilst we obeyed and made sacrifices they partied - it's an utter disgrace."

Operators recently told The Caterer mixed messages from the government meant they were seeing bookings being cancelled and lower trade than expected.

Boris Johnson announced in Parliament earlier today that he had been "repeatedly assured" that there was "no party, and that no Covid rules were broken" and that an internal review would be conducted.

Around 12,000 licensed premises are believed to have closed since the start of the pandemic, many due to restrictions hitting trade and business viability.

Photo: Flickr / Number 10

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