Government guidance urges restaurants, pubs and bars to use Covid passports after 'Freedom Day'

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor

Yesterday, ministers published their advice for businesses on how to operate when Covid restrictions are eased on Monday, 19th July, including the advice that hospitality businesses should consider the use of vaccine passports upon guests' entry.

Though it will no longer be compulsory, it says that hospitality and retail businesses should continue to encourage staff and customers to wear facemasks "in enclosed and crowded spaces," testing their staff regularly and checking either vaccination status or Covid immunity of their guests using the NHS Covid Pass.

What some hoped would be the final hurdle before normal operations could resume has been divisive, as even before the guidance was released, some venues announced that they would continue to take the same precautionary measures - such as table service, contactless payment, taking customer details for track and trace and the wearing of facemasks - until they felt it safe for their staff and customers to do so. 

As the number of cases of coronavirus rises and the rate of vaccination has slowed in pace - and businesses are forced to close temporarily when a positive case is reported in their team - the easing of all restrictions could increase cases higher still, especially as many hospitality workers are in the age group not yet fully vaccinated.

How would a Covid Pass work?

"A method of COVID-status certification," according to the guidance, which you can access in full here, the NHS Covid Pass will allow people "to demonstrate that they’re at a lower risk of carrying COVID-19 and transmitting it to others, through vaccination, testing or natural immunity."

It adds that "the government will work with organisations that operate large, crowded settings (for example, nightclubs) where people are likely to be in close proximity to a large number of those from other households to use the NHS COVID Pass as a condition of entry."

Available through the NHS App, the NHS website, or as a letter that can be requested by ringing NHS 119, checking will be performed by showing "a text or email confirmation of test results."

Given how close the Monday deadline is, UKHospitality chief Kate Nicholls told The Telegraph the issuing of the advice was "disappointing," and that ministers should  provide a "whole suite of guidance" to explain how the Covid passports would work in practice, in order for the sector to decide "whether we are willing to adopt this on a voluntary basis".

"I don't think anybody would be able to introduce this on a voluntary basis from Monday until we have clarification."

She added that "more work is needed by the Government", warning of "real concerns" around equalities legislation, and practical issues around testing and the handling of customers' health data.  

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Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Tanwen Dawn-Hiscox

Deputy Editor 15th July 2021

Government guidance urges restaurants, pubs and bars to use Covid passports after 'Freedom Day'