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
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
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.