Nightclub vaccine passports ridiculed as 'a terrible idea'
- Credit: © ARCHANT NORFOLK PHOTOGRAPHIC
As vaccine passports become a potential prerequisite for the re-opening of festivals, stadiums and the late-night economy, Norwich's own nightclub community has ridiculed the idea as "unworkable" and "disastrous".
According to an eight-page government report, Covid status certification - or vaccine passports - could be used to show whether people have been vaccinated, recently tested or have "natural immunity".
While ministers have insisted they would never be necessary for essential shopping, public transport or GP visits, they could be useful for risk management at music festivals, sports matches and nightclubs.
No plans have been finalised and vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi admitted the idea raises "difficult ethical questions".
For Glen Sarabi, who previously ran the Mantra and Truth nightclubs on Prince of Wales Road, vaccine passports for the licensed economy would be absurd.
He said: "It's a terrible idea: it just can't be policed.
"I understand the logic behind it but the practicality of it simply isn't there.
"If you've got 300 people queuing outside, how are nightclubs supposed to check their vaccine status in a timely manner? It'll just require so much extra policing, and that's something the police definitely don't need."
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He continued: "There's also the question of whether those people are intoxicated. Does that compromise their "natural immunity"?
"Even if we had people wait for rapid testing results for half an hour, like they're proposing at festivals and stadiums, are we really supposed to expect them to wait while their test result is generated? It's just not workable."
Beyond the practicality issue, Mr Sarabi claimed that the passports were also discriminatory towards young people.
"I'm 42 and I haven't been invited for my vaccine yet, so I highly doubt healthy 18-25-year-olds will have theirs by June", he explained. "Are they then not allowed to re-enter nightclubs?
"That's our entire market, so without them there would be no point in opening."
Mr Sarabi also pointed out that it made no sense to give the nighttime economy "yet another hurdle" by way of a vaccine passport, when places which were just as busy - such as Primark - were not facing the same obstacles.
"Both environments will be just as busy as each other. Why does one potentially need passports and the other doesn't?"
For Andy Gotts, who runs the Fluke and Envy nightclubs and is chairman of Late Night Norwich, the difficulties posed by vaccine passports are so hypothetical they currently aren't worth worrying about.
"The government has said they will mainly be used for international travel and not domestic venue settings", he said.
"I don't think they will enforce them at nightclubs because if they did we certainly wouldn't be opening in June: it's as simple as that.
"Our market is 18-25-year-olds. If they can't get in we don't have a clientele to open for. It would be disastrous."
Keir Slater, who manages Mr Postles' Apothecary on Upper King Street in Norwich, said he was was "lucky" because his venue has a both a bar and nightclub function.
"The age-range of our customers is from 18-retired, so while vaccine passports would definitely change the atmosphere it wouldn't leave us short of custom", he explained.
"Having said that I think they'd be particularly harsh on young people who haven't had their time, so to speak.
"Once they've had their vaccines I think it could work, say if you get smartphone-savvy young people who just queue up and use QR codes.
Stefan Gurney, executive director of the Norwich Business Improvement District (BID), said it was not realistic to expect individual venues to enforce a "vaccine passport" clearance system.
"It's all hypothetical at the moment because we've got no final details, but it just can't be implemented at that level and I don't imagine it will be."