Pubs not in the clear over vaccine passports: No decision yet on ‘papers for pints’ scheme

Ministers have yet to decide if pubs will have to force drinkers to show Covid passports before being allowed in, ahead of the launch of a pilot scheme that will use the FA Cup Final and a Liverpool nightclub to test ways for the UK’s nightlife scene to burst back into life after Covid.

The Prime Minister is expected to announce tomorrow a wave of events in April and May that will seek to find a workable way for weary Brits to safely get back out to enjoy mass-attendance events like concerts, festivals and nightclubs without social distancing.  

They include allowing 21,000 fans at the FA Cup Final at Wembley, spectators at the World Snooker Championship in Sheffield and a mass participation run in Hatfield, Herts.

Because the pilot schemes did not include pubs and restaurants it raised hopes that controversial plans for Covid passports in order to a drink or a meal had been dumped.

But it is understood that no decision on the measure has yet been made, with evidence still being assessed.  

Despite polling suggesting the public wants passports to be used in pubs and restaurants,  Sir Keir Starmer has suggested Labour could vote against them. And a hardcore of more than 40 Tories had also threatened to rebel, potentially enough to defeat the Government in the Commons.

In a cross-party letter on Friday 72 MPs had branded the idea ‘divisive and discriminatory’. 

Pubs are due to open from April 12 to customers seated outdoors. Punters will be allowed inside from May 17, with social distancing, before all social distancing measured expected to be lifted in Nune.  

Tory civil liberties campaigner and former minister David Davis today blasted the idea of passports.

He said he agreed with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer that they were ‘un-British’, telling LBC radio: ‘We wouldn’t do this for flu, flu can kill up to 25,000 people a year. 

‘Vaccines will reduce this illness to killing a lot less than that every year, then we will have to accommodate it, but not by giving up our basic freedoms.’    

The news came as it emerged: 

  • Daily Covid deaths fell to ten, the lowest number since September 14; 
  • Trials of vaccination passports will begin at some of the country’s most iconic venues next week, with crowds of up to 21,000 people allowed to gather for the first time in a year; 
  • Ministers are set to launch a door-to-door vaccination push to help boost take-up among ethnic minorities;
  • The Government is preparing to launch a PR offensive to encourage Britons to have staycations in the UK cities;
  • Tens of millions of pints of beer are being delivered to the nation’s pubs ahead of the next easing of lockdown in eight days’ time; 

Boris Johnson scrapped plans to ask landlords to enforce a pub vaccine passport scheme

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston confirmed this afternoon: 'It is not just about certification actually, in fact the earlier programmes, the earlier pilots almost certainly won't involve any element of certification but it will involve testing, making sure people are tested before and after the event'

Sports minister Nigel Huddleston confirmed this afternoon: ‘It is not just about certification actually, in fact the earlier programmes, the earlier pilots almost certainly won’t involve any element of certification but it will involve testing, making sure people are tested before and after the event’

Entry to festivals and major sporting events will only be allowed to those with either an NHS app or certificate showing they have had a covid jab, the Prime Minister is expected to announce on Monday (file image)

Entry to festivals and major sporting events will only be allowed to those with either an NHS app or certificate showing they have had a covid jab, the Prime Minister is expected to announce on Monday (file image)

Millions could go to pubs with no social distancing under plans to let drinkers use mobile phones to prove they are free of Covid. This graphic shows how the app would have worked

Millions could go to pubs with no social distancing under plans to let drinkers use mobile phones to prove they are free of Covid. This graphic shows how the app would have worked 

Landlords will be allowed to open for outdoor seating-only from April 12 and punters will not need to prove they're vaccinated, Mr Johnson will announce next week. Pictured, a pub in London Bridge last year

Landlords will be allowed to open for outdoor seating-only from April 12 and punters will not need to prove they’re vaccinated, Mr Johnson will announce next week. Pictured, a pub in London Bridge last year

‘Vaccination can never provide 100 per cent protection’: Michael Gove’s warning ahead of the end of lockdown 

Michael Gove has warned Britons to be wary of the end of lockdown.

The minister in charge of the Government’s Covid response wrote in the Telegraph on Sunday.

He said: ‘Vaccination is a hugely powerful tool, but it can never provide 100 per cent protection. 

‘That is why we need to look at every option potentially available to ensure the fastest, safest and most sustainable road back to normality.

‘Which is where the idea of Covid certification could prove useful.’ 

It emerged today that a series of nightlife events in Liverpool, including a club that can hold 3,000 people, will not be used to test the passport scheme.

A spokesman for Liverpool City Council said on Sunday: ‘The line which was briefed out yesterday by the Government about Liverpool’s events being included in the vaccine passports trials is incorrect – none of our events in Liverpool will involve them.’

The Liverpool pilots – a comedy gig, an outdoor cinema, a club night and a business event – will instead  ‘gather evidence associated with different settings and approaches to managing and mitigating transmission risk’. 

And sports minister Nigel Huddleston confirmed this afternoon: ‘It is not just about certification actually, in fact the earlier programmes, the earlier pilots almost certainly won’t involve any element of certification but it will involve testing, making sure people are tested before and after the event.

‘What we will be looking at is the mitigation measures, so the ventilation, one-way systems, hygiene measures, all of those kind of things to help inform long term decision making.’

In a move which could set back the emergence of some other events, ministers have warned the app-based vaccine certificates designed to help Britons get back to normal will not be ready until the Autumn. 

Entry to festivals and major sporting events will still only be granted to those with either an NHS app or certificate showing they have had a covid jab, the Prime Minister is expected to announce on Monday. 

Guidance is expected to reveal music, theatre or sports fans will only be allowed to gather at events by presenting proof of a vaccination. 

Alternatives for those who are pregnant or otherwise unable to be vaccinated will include proof of a recent negative test, or protection from antibodies because they have had the infection within the last six months, sources suggest. 

Michael Gove, who is leading a cross-government consultation on Covid certificates, told The Telegraph: ‘There is a host of practical and ethical questions we have to answer before we can consider a wider rollout.’

Problems include ensuring those without access to a smartphone can provide proof of vaccination and keeping data protected. 

Those who cannot get the vaccination must also be given alternative ways to prove they are low risk – whether that’s a recent negative test or doctor’s note revealing sufficient antibodies. 

Even if these issues are resolved, senior Government sources said the certificate scheme could take ‘months, not weeks’ to develop. 

Hancock taken to court over hospitality curbs 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been summoned to the High Court to justify why he is allowing non-essential shops to open before pubs and restaurants.

The legal action has been brought by Pizza Express founder Hugh Osmond and nightclubs operator Sacha Lord, The Sunday Telegraph reports.

The paper says it has seen High Court documents which show the two businessmen are challenging ‘the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Steps) (England) Regulations 2021 to the extent that those Regulations provide for non-essential retail businesses to reopen before indoor hospitality businesses’.

Mr Justice Swift has ordered that the Health Secretary ‘shall by 10am on Tuesday April 6 file and serve his response to the application’.

From April 12 at the earliest, shops, hairdressers, nail salons, libraries and outdoor hospitality venues such as beer gardens will be allowed to reopen.

But indoor hospitality and entertainment venues and the rest of the accommodation sector will not be able to open their doors until at least May 17. 

One source told the newspaper: ‘I don’t expect [the app] to be until much later in the year.’  

Nine pilot events are being held over the next few weeks to help policy makers decide how best to unlock Britain. 

The success of high-tech ventilation and covid tests on entry will be trialled at a comedy club, cinema, nightclub and business conference arena in Liverpool next week.

Some fans will be allowed at Wembley for the Carabao Cup final on April 25, the FA Cup final on May 15 and the semi-finals on April 18.

The World Snooker Championship in Sheffield and a mass participation run in Hatfield, Herts, will also go ahead with crowds to test the scheme.

The IT company helping the UK Government with a possible Covid-19 passport app has said its technology is ‘an efficient, secure and scalable solution’ that will support the safe reopening of society.

Netcompany has already confirmed its digital Corona passport app will be used in Denmark and is expected to be ready in May.

The UK Government is working on the development of a ‘Covid status certification’ scheme, the so-called vaccine passport, and a Whitehall source said Netcompany is ‘helping with the technical architecture of a possible app’.

Netcompany was awarded a year-long contract in November worth £3,107,200 for ‘Alpha, Beta and Live Support services to NHS Test and Trace’, according to the Government website.

The firm’s website says: ‘Netcompany’s digital Corona passport is an efficient, secure and scalable solution that supports a safe reopening of societies and businesses, granting citizens access to the workplace, business – and holiday travels, healthcare institutions and cultural institutions.

‘In addition, the solution can support a more responsible return of private gatherings, weddings etc.’

Professor Melinda Mills, director of the Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science at the University of Oxford, said there are ‘still a lot of open questions’ about the Government’s planned ‘Covid status certification’ scheme.

She told BBC Breakfast: ‘There’s scientific questions, there’s logistical questions – how will it work – with an app or a paper version? – and there’s real ethical questions as well, too: do I have to pay for the testing if I haven’t been vaccinated or had that opportunity?

‘So there are still a lot of open questions.’

The sociologist said there may be concerns in the community about the storing of private information as part of the scheme, while forgeries could become an issue if paper documents are used.

‘Once you have forgery you will lose your legitimacy, so it will be really important to understand technically how this will work,’ Prof Mills said.

‘The only way to build trust in these systems is through transparency.’

Michael Gove, who is leading a cross-government consultation on Covid certificates, told The Telegraph: 'There is a host of practical and ethical questions we have to answer before we can consider a wider rollout'

Michael Gove, who is leading a cross-government consultation on Covid certificates, told The Telegraph: ‘There is a host of practical and ethical questions we have to answer before we can consider a wider rollout’

A meeting of the cabinet will discuss plans for the end of lockdown on Monday, which will be followed by a press conference hosted by Mr Johnson in the evening. 

Just TEN people die of coronavirus in the UK in a day – the lowest toll in SIX MONTHS – and new cases also fall by 27% in a week to 3,423 

Covid deaths have fallen to the lowest in six months as the UK records 10 fatalities and and infections drop by 27% in a week to 3,423.

The Government said a further 10 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Saturday, bringing the UK total to 126,826.

Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have been 150,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

The Government also said that, as of 9am on Saturday, there had been a further 3,423 lab-confirmed cases in the UK. It brings the total to 4,357,091.

Between 28 March 2021 and 3 April 2021, 27,912 people had a confirmed positive test result. This shows a decrease of 28.3 per cent compared to the previous 7 days.  

There were 10 deaths within 28 days of a positive test for coronavirus reported on 3 April 2021.

Between 28 March 2021 and 3 April 2021, there have been 254 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test. This shows a decrease of 43.7% compared to the previous 7 days. 

Numbers for cases and deaths over Easter will be affected by incomplete data plus a longer than usual lag in reporting. 

A ‘social distancing review’ will consider whether the one metre-plus rule and working from home guidance can be lifted under a successful vaccine passport scheme, Number 10 said on Saturday.

It comes as Mr Johnson yesterday welcomed another vaccine milestone after more than five million Britons received their second dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

The total number of people given one jab is now at 31.4million, while the figure for second doses stands at 5,205,505.

Mr Johnson tweeted: ‘We’ve reached another milestone in our vaccination programme with over 5 million people now having had their second jab. 

‘I urge everyone to take up their second dose as soon as they are offered it.’ 

Second doses are being prioritised in April amid a warning that vaccine supplies will fall.

But the government has said it is still on course to offer all adults in the UK a first jab by the end of July.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: ‘I’m delighted that 50% of over-80s have now had their second jab.

‘Thank you to everyone involved in rolling-out the vaccine across the whole UK.’ 

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi added: ‘5.2m second doses, our focus is making sure the most vulnerable groups 1-9 get their second doses. That is 99% of mortality.’

He said: ‘Vaccines are an incredibly important part of our route out of lockdown and this pandemic, and it’s vital people take advantage of the protection they provide.

‘No matter who you are, where you live, your race or your religion, I encourage everyone to take up both their vaccinations when offered and help this country get back to normality.’

Dr Nikki Kanani, GP and medical director for primary care at NHS England, praised the ‘tens of thousands of volunteers’ for the success of the vaccine rollout.

She said: ‘The biggest vaccination programme in NHS history – the fastest in Europe – reaches another significant milestone as more than five million people have now received their second dose providing them with the strongest possible protection from serious disease.

Trials of vaccine passports could begin as soon as next month, the Mail can reveal. Pictured: A covid-safe pub lunch

Trials of vaccine passports could begin as soon as next month, the Mail can reveal. Pictured: A covid-safe pub lunch

The introduction of vaccine passports is certain to trigger a political row, with MPs issuing a joint statement against the passports. Pictured: Former RAF Flight Sergeant Louis Godwin receives his second injection of the coronavirus vaccine at Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire, March 27

The introduction of vaccine passports is certain to trigger a political row, with MPs issuing a joint statement against the passports. Pictured: Former RAF Flight Sergeant Louis Godwin receives his second injection of the coronavirus vaccine at Salisbury Cathedral, Wiltshire, March 27

How vaccination passports could work

 What would I get?

Officials are working on an update of the NHS app which would allow people to scan their vaccine status at the door of a venue. A paper version is being developed for those who do not use a smartphone.

Is it popular?

One poll found 68 per cent would support the idea for theatres or indoor concerts, with just 18 per cent opposed. But businesses have raised concerns, with the trade body UK Hospitality branding it ‘unworkable’.

Do MPs back it?

Opposition is building, with a cross-party alliance of 72 MPs last night pledging to oppose the ‘divisive and discriminatory’ plan. Rebels include 40 Tories – enough to wipe out the Government’s majority. Labour has yet to say how it will vote and ministers believe they could force it through without primary legislation. 

Anywhere else?

Possibly in the workplace. But the CBI warns it could prove a ‘legal minefield’ and damage relations.

When will it happen?

Possibly as soon as next month in theatres and stadiums. However a full rollout will not take place until all adults have been jabbed. 

‘This success is testament to the tens of thousands of volunteers, everyone working behind the scenes and NHS GPs, nurses and vaccinators who are continuing to offer vaccines to all those who are eligible – so please do come forward for your second dose when called.’

The Department for Health and Social Care said nearly one in 10 of all UK adults have received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine, after the number of people receiving their second jab passed five million.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘Our spectacular vaccination programme has now delivered over five million second doses, giving those most vulnerable to Covid – including half of all those aged over 80 – the best possible protection.

‘This is vital so everyone can get the strongest possible protection against Covid-19 as we progress along the road to freedom, allowing us to reclaim the things we love.

‘I want to give a big thank you to all those who have helped us reach this milestone.’ 

The idea of creating a new ‘Checkpoint Britain’ has led to a fierce cross-party backlash, with 72 MPs signing a pledge to oppose the ‘divisive and discriminatory’ scheme for vaccine passports.

There was also a huge outcry over the plans, with a litany of critics branding the idea as oppressive.

The policy was even criticised by a Government adviser, with Professor Robert West warning they would give people a false sense of security. 

The scale of the opposition presents a potential major problem for Mr Johnson if the plans require primary legislation to enact them.

A Whitehall source told the Mail ministers would try to win round furious Tory MPs by reassuring them that any new passport scheme would be temporary.

While no decision has been taken on how long any scheme should last, the source said it was likely to be no more than a year.

‘It will be time-limited and I think the duration of the scheme will be measured in months,’ the source said. 

‘The party will not wear any longer.’ 

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden defended the idea of so-called ‘Covid status certification’, saying it could help people get back to ‘doing the things they love’, such as going to the theatre or attending live concerts and sports events. 

Mr Johnson tweeted: 'We've reached another milestone in our vaccination programme with over 5 million people now having had their second jab'

Mr Johnson tweeted: ‘We’ve reached another milestone in our vaccination programme with over 5 million people now having had their second jab’

More than five million Britons receive their second coronavirus vaccine dose 

Mr Johnson yesterday welcomed another vaccine milestone as more than five million Britons have received their second dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

The total number of people given one jab is now at 31.4million, while the figure for second doses stands at 5,205,505.

Mr Johnson tweeted: ‘We’ve reached another milestone in our vaccination programme with over 5 million people now having had their second jab. 

‘I urge everyone to take up their second dose as soon as they are offered it.’ 

Second doses are being prioritised in April amid a warning that vaccine supplies will fall.

But the government has said it is still on course to offer all adults in the UK a first jab by the end of July. 

Mr Dowden stressed that vaccine status is only one element of the scheme, with people also able to show a negative Covid test or prove they have already had the virus to gain entry.

He told the BBC: ‘This is not about a vaccine passport, this is about looking at ways of proving that you are Covid secure, whether you have had a test or had the vaccine. 

‘Clearly, no decisions have been made on that, because we have to weigh up different factors, the ethical considerations and so on, but it may be a way of ensuring we can get more people back doing the things they love.’ 

Meanwhile, covid deaths have fallen to the lowest in six months as the UK records 10 fatalities and and infections drop by 27 per cent in a week to 3,423.

The Government said a further 10 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Saturday, bringing the UK total to 126,826. 

Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have been 150,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

The Government also said that, as of 9am on Saturday, there had been a further 3,423 lab-confirmed cases in the UK. It brings the total to 4,357,091.

Between 28 March 2021 and 3 April 2021, 27,912 people had a confirmed positive test result. This shows a decrease of 28.3 per cent compared to the previous 7 days.  

There were 10 deaths within 28 days of a positive test for coronavirus reported on 3 April 2021.

Between 28 March 2021 and 3 April 2021, there have been 254 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test. 

This shows a decrease of 43.7 per cent compared to the previous 7 days. Numbers for cases and deaths over Easter will be affected by incomplete data plus a longer than usual lag in reporting. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: 'I'm delighted that 50% of over-80s have now had their second jab'

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: ‘I’m delighted that 50% of over-80s have now had their second jab’

Furious publicans blast coronavirus vaccine passport scheme as ‘bonkers’, ‘un-British’ and a fraud risk 

Pubs, bars and nightclubs were in open revolt against the controversial Government plans that could have seen customers turned away without a ‘vaccine passport’.

More than 20 landlords and industry chiefs, from individual village pub owners to the bosses of some of Britain’s largest chains, damned the idea as ‘unworkable, costly and discriminatory’.

Pub chiefs labelled it as ‘un-British’, saying it was ‘like carrying an identity card’ and infringed on civil liberties.

The ferocious backlash erupted after Boris Johnson suggested pub landlords may be able to demand proof of a Covid vaccination as a condition of entry.

However, the idea – immediately labelled ‘papers for the pub’ – drew outrage from Tory MPs and industry leaders, left furious by the prospect of extra costs and administration just as they are finally getting to reopen following months of closure. 

Drinkers outside a pub in London's Soho on October 17, 2020, the first day after the capital was put into Tier Two restrictions

Drinkers outside a pub in London’s Soho on October 17, 2020, the first day after the capital was put into Tier Two restrictions

One boss described the vaccine passport scheme as the ‘maddest thing they’ve come up with yet’, while another labelled it ‘completely bonkers’. 

The system would be open to fraud and faked passports, they warned, while staff at the door would have little power to actually enforce such a scheme.

The move also would discriminate against younger people, pregnant women and ethnic minorities, who are less likely to have had the vaccine, they added.  

Clive Watson, boss of City Pub Group, which has 48 pubs, said: ‘This proposal is completely bonkers and unworkable. It would create a scramble for the relevant paperwork and would be extremely difficult for door staff to enforce.’ 

Nick Mackenzie, chief executive of Britain’s biggest pub group Greene King, which has 3,100 pubs, said: ‘It would be devastating for pubs. Barring entry to customers who haven’t had a vaccine would be totally unworkable, add significant cost and make pubs unviable.’ 

Jonathan Neame, chief executive of Shepherd Neame, which has 300 pubs, said: ‘We should not be putting up new barriers just as our freedom is restored and society starts to reconnect.’ 

Anger at the vaccine passport scheme was shared by landlords running small businesses.

Gareth Dore, owner of two venues including the Cellar Club bar in Leamington Spa, said: ‘After a year of no profit and mounting costs, I will not be turning more people away by asking for a vaccine passport at my venues.

‘None of this is needed to go in supermarkets or shops. The industry is on its knees and we’re all fed up of being unfairly picked on.’

Boris Johnson suggested pub landlords may be able to demand proof of a Covid vaccination as a condition of entry

Boris Johnson suggested pub landlords may be able to demand proof of a Covid vaccination as a condition of entry

Lauren Hawes, landlady of The Great Northern Pub in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, said: ‘Pregnant women might not have had a vaccine. Imagine someone going out with their partner for an evening out and she gets rejected purely for being pregnant.’

Unions raised fears of a black market for doses fuelled by demand from the under-50s.

Dan Shears, a director at GMB, which represents hospitality workers, said: ‘This will lead to pressure on GPs to fast-track younger patients, false certificates, potential violence for pub workers and even a black market for vaccine doses.’

Businesses in the leisure sector also raised their opposition. John O’Reilly, chief executive of Rank, which runs 152 casinos and bingo halls, said: ‘Our customers know our venues are safe and the last thing they want to see are more hurdles which will prevent them from having a good time.’ 

The return of crowds: 21,000 for the FA Cup final, 3,000 inside a nightclub and 1,000 at an open-air cinema – all monitored by scientists in an extraordinary mass vaccine passports experiment

By Anna Mikhailova and Alex Lawson For The Mail On Sunday 

Trials of vaccination passports will begin at some of the country’s most iconic venues next week, with crowds of up to 21,000 people allowed to gather for the first time in a year.

Boris Johnson will tomorrow confirm a system of certification that will allow spectators at football matches and other sporting events, nightclubs and theatres.

The system will take into account vaccination status, a recent negative test or natural immunity – demonstrated by producing a positive PCR test taken in the previous six months.

Ministers are also understood to be set to block Covid passports being rolled out in pubs and restaurants, although the Government will consult with the industry before making a decision

Ministers are also understood to be set to block Covid passports being rolled out in pubs and restaurants, although the Government will consult with the industry before making a decision

The first events begin next week and the project will run until May 15. They are designed to advance the reopening roadmap’s plan to scrap social distancing on June 21

The first events begin next week and the project will run until May 15. They are designed to advance the reopening roadmap’s plan to scrap social distancing on June 21

Wetherspoon boss says vaccine passports would be ‘the last straw’ for pubs

Wetherspoon boss Tim Martin had said vaccine passports would be ‘the last straw’ for struggling pubs and force bar staff into a ‘bitter civil liberties war’ with customers.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Martin said ‘there is no justification for a passport system’.

The chairman of the pub chain said: ‘For many pubs, hanging on for dear life and devastated by G-force changes of direction, a complex and controversial passport scheme would be the last straw.

‘It would inevitably put pub staff in the frontline of a bitter civil liberties war, with some customers unwilling to be vaccinated or unable to have a jab for medical reasons.’

Nine events will be used for a month-long trial, including an FA Cup semi-final and the final in front of 21,000 fans at Wembley, a nightclub in Liverpool, which would host 3,000 indoors and do away with social distancing, and three 10km outdoor runs for 3,000 athletes and up to 3,000 spectators. Officials are also in talks with the organisers of the Brit Awards about allowing thousands of fans to watch the music event, hosted by comedian Jack Whitehall, in London’s O2 Arena on May 11.

The first events begin next week and the project will run until May 15. They are designed to advance the reopening roadmap’s plan to scrap social distancing on June 21. Liverpool has been chosen for several events because of the city’s advanced testing infrastructure.

The trials will be led by scientists, aided by researchers inside events to ‘monitor and study’ crowds. Some events will be used to test Covid certificates, others to examine how ventilation, crowd flows and testing on entry can help audiences return without social distancing.

Researchers will also study ‘behavioural’ responses of crowds after a year of social distancing. A Government source said: ‘It’s going to feel very odd for people to be sitting next to each other.’

A board of advisers, made up of independent scientists and public health experts, will assess the data and present results to Ministers at the end of May. Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: ‘The great British summer of sport, performance and music is now in sight.’

Writing in The Mail on Sunday opposite, Mr Dowden accepts that events with social distancing have ‘no atmosphere’ and adds the trial will allow ‘real occasions with large audiences in theatres, stadiums and at gigs packed with cheering fans’.

He says: ‘Each pilot event is a model for a much bigger reopenings in the future, particularly from June 21.

‘And the programme is a key part in helping us to lift all the social distancing restrictions this summer, if we can do so safely.’ The Government said Covid passports were expected to be used in events where ‘large numbers of people are in close proximity, at mass events such as festivals, sports matches and nightclubs’.

Ministers are also understood to be set to block Covid passports being rolled out in pubs and restaurants, although the Government will consult with the industry before making a decision.

The Government also said work was ‘ongoing with clinical and ethical experts to ensure appropriate exemptions for people for whom vaccination is not advised and repeat testing would be difficult’. Last month, Mr Johnson told MPs the decision to use vaccine passports could be left to individual pub landlords, prompting a backlash from the hospitality industry and cross-party MPs.

Meanwhile, the Government is conducting a separate review of social distancing, with a view to scrap the ‘1m plus’ rule – a move seen as crucial for arts and hospitality venues to remain viable when they reopen.

It comes as research revealed that four out of five people would be willing to show proof they had been vaccinated or had tested negative for Covid to attend a concert or a cricket match.

The MoS-commissioned poll of 2,010 people by Censuswide also found that 84 per cent were willing to agree to some form of ‘bio-security’ safety measures, including social distancing, one-way systems and testing. However, 60 per cent said they were unwilling to pay to cover the costs of extra measures to prevent the spread of Covid.

Those surveyed also said that compulsory mask-wearing was the measure that would make them feel most comfortable in attending, ahead of social distancing and vaccine passports. 

A giant step towards the life we love and the end of social distancing, writes Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden

It’s been along time coming, but the Great British Summer of sport, performance and music is now in sight. Tomorrow, the Prime Minister will unveil a list of pilot spectator events for the coming weeks, from a comedy night for 300 in Liverpool to a 21,000- strong crowd at the FA Cup Final.

Not the socially-distanced kind of event with no atmosphere, but real occasions with large audiences in theatres, stadiums and at gigs packed with cheering fans.

It will be the first time in more than a year that sports stars and performers will be back in front of sizeable crowds.

These pilots are not just standalone events. They are led by science and designed to pave the way for the return of life as we previously knew.

Part of our Events Research Programme, these trials will cover the gamut of live entertainment so that we can get sports and the arts – both hit hard by the pandemic – back to full strength.

Tomorrow, the Prime Minister will unveil a list of pilot spectator events for the coming weeks, from a comedy night for 300 in Liverpool to a 21,000- strong crowd at the FA Cup Final (2019 final pictured)

Tomorrow, the Prime Minister will unveil a list of pilot spectator events for the coming weeks, from a comedy night for 300 in Liverpool to a 21,000- strong crowd at the FA Cup Final (2019 final pictured)

The programme will test various settings and the conclusions will be shared across the full range of events that depend on bringing people together.

For example, the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield is hosting the World Snooker Championship and, in doing so, will act as a live test for theatres up and down the country.

Each pilot event is a model for a much bigger reopening in the future, particularly from June 21. And the programme is a key part in helping us lift all the social-distancing restrictions this summer, if we can do so safely.

An independently chaired Science Board of Chief Scientific Advisers – made up of independent scientists and public health experts – will help us to understand how potential transmission of the virus might take place at sports and arts venues, and will gather evidence on how they can open up without social distancing in the future.

Aside from the need to get some joy back into our lives, I know that it’s vital we take this step to save sport and the arts.

We have pumped a huge amount of support into the theatres, galleries, festivals and orchestras. The only way to secure their future properly is to get the seats filled once again.

Our unprecedented £2billion package for the arts is helping venues and event organisers across the country – from theatres to cinemas, music halls to festivals – survive and plan for a brighter future in which they can thrive once more.

Last week, I saw the reopening plans for one of our great theatres, the Wolverhampton Grand. We have given them £1.5million from the Culture Recovery Fund and the staff there can now see light at the end of the tunnel with a new production in development. The likes of Charlie Chaplin and Marlene Dietrich have trodden the boards at the Wolverhampton Grand and, through our funding, we are ensuring that stars of the future can follow in their footsteps.

The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield is hosting the World Snooker Championship and, in doing so, will act as a live test for theatres up and down the country

The Crucible Theatre in Sheffield is hosting the World Snooker Championship and, in doing so, will act as a live test for theatres up and down the country

Sport has also received £1.5billion of business support, including a £600million survival package to ensure that those who have been unable to admit spectators in the last few months have had the financial assistance they need to keep going.

Our support means that no fan has the heartbreak of losing a club to Covid.

We will continue to help these precious institutions as they recover, but we need to allow them to start making money themselves soon. The events pilot programme is, therefore, a timely step and a vital one.

Those attending the pilot events might well find the experience a little different from their usual trip to a match or the theatre. There will be Covid tests. Researchers and scientists will be present.

If you get a seat at one of these events, you will see us trying out different ways to stop the virus spreading. You will be tested before and after the event to help us make them as safe as possible.

You might be asked to arrive earlier than normal as we manage the flow of people, or to arrive by foot, cycle or car to minimise clustering on public transport.

These steps are important to help us build the case for the safe return of even more fans from June 21.

And we can be confident that a lot of people will want to be a part of this, and be among the very first to experience the thrill of a live performance or a match for the first time in more than a year.

Pioneering fans will be eager to play their part, just as others have put up their hands to help in the course of the pandemic.

As the Prime Minister has said, we will continue to move along the roadmap with caution, led at all times by the data. This programme is a vital part of that progress.

We will examine the risks closely, plan to keep people safe, mitigate the dangers and, in doing, so we will be able to have spectators returning in full to events once more.

Each successful pilot is a huge step forward towards the life we all miss sorely, every day.

We have the venues. We have the stars waiting in the wings to delight a real crowd. Now all we need is the spectators.

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