Updated 15:00 29 April 2020: With a link to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove’s statement and reaction from the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA).
Today, 29 April, the government has confirmed — again — that customers visiting pubs and restaurants will not have to show “Covid status certificates” or so-called “vaccine passports” when dining rooms reopen on Monday 17 May. The certificates would indicate proof of vaccination, a recent test, or presence of antibodies from a previous infection.
It comes after the latest findings of a government review into Covid certification has found “compulsory certificates to enter pubs and restaurants are now off the menu,” with documents likely to be required only for larger events, according to a report in the Guardian this morning, 29 April. The newspaper was the first to report that Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove would lay out the results of that review in a written statement to the House of Commons this afternoon. “The review is still ongoing and subject to change and will report back next month,” it says.
Gove’s statement said that the “Prime Minister has made clear that COVID-status certification will not be required in any settings at step 2 and 3 of the roadmap. The Government has committed to setting out the conclusions of the review ahead of step 4.”
Step four is due to be implemented on 21 June, when “all legal limits on social contact” will be removed, with the reopening of large events like theatre performances and nightclubs.
News that restaurateurs and publicans will not have to police the Covid status of customers will come as a relief to business owner who have previously expressed their opposition to rumoured plans. In February, shortly after the idea of vaccine passports for pubs and restaurants was first introduced by vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi, one London restaurateur told Eater that “hospitality professionals are not public health professionals and I don’t think it’s right or fair for the burden of enforcement to fall upon them.”
Since then, there’s been a degree of uncertainty surrounding their introduction, with Johnson personally appearing to be in favour of their use in smaller settings, such as hospitality venues.
This afternoon, the BBPA could not conceal its disappointment with the lack of certainty in Gove’s message. “This empty statement gives our sector no long term clarity on whether it will be affected by COVID-status certificates or not,” it said. “If the Government is not looking to impose COVID-status certification on pubs, then it should simply come forward and rule them out now.”
Like earlier this month, ministers are expected to avoid ruling out allowing “restaurant owners make their own judgments about terms of entry,” the Guardian reports. “There is also the possibility that the certification could be used in smaller venues in the autumn should Covid-19 cases start to surge, as a way of keeping them open,” it says.
At the beginning of April, Johnson confirmed that restaurants, pubs, cafes, and bars would reopen outdoors in England on 12 April, per the reopening “roadmap” without the need for vaccine passports. He also said then that they would not be required when indoor dining resumed on 17 May either. This coincided with the government publishing its first review of “covid status certification.”
So, the situation is as it was then. As of now, vaccine passports will not play a role in the reopening of dining rooms next month. But, like at the start of this month, they might yet in the future.
The Cabinet Office pointed to Gove’s published statement when asked for comment.