Vaccine passports for nightclubs continue to be a big topic in the news this week. It doesn’t help that the government in London keep blowing hot and cold on the idea – and I predict one of two things will happen.
One, the Johnson administration will bribe Tory MPs into supporting it by promising to do something more popular with them – effectively a case of you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.
It’s been done before. In 2008, the then UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown wanted to get a law through Parliament which means a possible terrorist could be detained for 42 days before being charged. The bill only got through Parliament thanks to a deal behind the scenes with the Northern Ireland based DUP which meant the government would block any attempts to use a law going through Westminster to make any changes to the province’s abortion laws.
The second possibility is that the Johnson administration will come to think this is just think this is one headache they don’t need and quietly drop them – citing the high rates of vaccination as evidence. I’m not quite sure what way they’ll go on this at the moment. The only thing I do know with some confidence is vaccine passports are unlikely to work, because they’re almost totally unenforceable.
On the NHS England Covid Pass webpage, there’s a section called Exemptions. And this just adds to the confusion. For starters, there’s a part which states “Event or venue organisers in England that chose to use the NHS Covid Pass as a condition of entry can decide whether to accept self-declared medical exemptions where an individual cannot vaccinate or test, ensuring they comply with the Equalities Act 2010”.
Let’s dissect this one a little. If the government puts this through as planned, this means only the double jabbed will get into nightclubs. What’s to stop a person from claiming they cannot receive the Covid vaccination for medical reasons? Under the government’s own guidance on this, the nightclub would have to accept this person at their word. Even if the doorman knew full well the person was lying through their teeth, they wouldn’t be allowed to call them out on it or reject their attempt to enter.
Theoretically, anyone who hasn’t been double vaccinated – whether it be because they haven’t had the second yet, medically cannot have it or are a moron who thinks the virus doesn’t exist – can claim they have an exemption under the law, and no one is allowed to ask for any evidence of that exemption.
And if a nightclub does exercise its disecretion and refuse you entry, they might have a potential claim under the Equality Act 2010 to deal with. This act basically replaced numerous older acts – it applies in full across England and Wales, and in a more limited form for Scotland and Northern Ireland. And it’s a big, complicated law. Now, the chancers are unlikely to be daft enough to want to be shown up in court for what they are – but it only takes one unfortunate encounter with a genuine case to end up in trouble.
The only people I foresee benefitting from all this uncertainty is lawyers. Shame about the nightclubs trying to make a square fit into a circle after being closed for over a year, eh?