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Government Ministers Are Already Preparing to Let Restaurants Carry the Vaccine Burden

Nadhim Zahawi’s comments on cinemas challenging customers on proof of vaccination are likely to come home to roost for hospitality too

Masked staff at St. John Bread and Wine sanitise the dining room as part of Covid-secure safety guidance for restaurants in the U.K.
Staff at St. John Bread and Wine last year tasked with Covid-securing the restaurant for diners
Michaël Protin/Eater London

With six days until prime minister Boris Johnson sets out a “roadmap” for reopening after coronavirus lockdown, the clamour around the nuts-and-bolts of returning to restaurants, pubs, cafes, bars, cinemas, and other cultural spaces is increasing; and vaccines are at its heart.

While the oscillation on introducing official vaccine passports appears to have met its predictable end in health secretary Matt Hancock directly contradicting fellow cabinet minister Dominc Raab, vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi has said that it will be up to businesses to decide how they administer any guidance on the connection between vaccination and admittance to venues. The Independent reports that his comments follow cinemas making strides to do private deals on creating vaccination certification programmes.

The interplay of ministerial shirking, guidelines over rules, and private enterprise filling the free space will come as little surprise to anyone who has tracked Britain’s response to COVID-19 since February 2020. Throughout previous reopenings, it has been left to staff to police mask-wearing, and whether “household” gatherings are indeed households at all: a serious, unprecedented burden that requires cooperation and respect from diners. Add in the ramifications for requiring a vaccine certificate for entry — for a programme that is not mandatory and is already reproducing societal inequality because of a lack of confidence and trust in the state institutions — and that burden only gets heavier.

It’s early days, but this responsibility is only going to grow bigger as roll-out progresses and reopening clamour grows louder.