Covid vaccine certificates will be made compulsory for crowded venues such as nightclubs in an attempt to boost jab uptake among young people, the government has announced.
Hours after clubs were allowed to reopen for the first time in 16 months, the prime minister said he was concerned about “the continuing risk posed by nightclubs” and that from the end of September entry was set to be barred for those who are not fully vaccinated.
The prime minister was delivering a press conference from Chequers, where he is self-isolating after contact with the health secretary, Sajid Javid, who has tested positive for Covid.
He also announced that “a very small number of named, fully-vaccinated, critical workers” in sectors such as energy, transport and food supply, would be allowed to return to work after being ordered to self-isolate.
As the government scrambles to manage surging cases, these workers will be allowed to leave quarantine only to work, if they take a negative PCR test and continue to have rapid tests daily. Their employer will have to consult with the relevant government department before allowing them to return.
Amid vehement objections from Tory backbenchers, the government had previously backed away from the compulsory use of coronavirus certificates – which involve customers using the NHS app to show their vaccination status.
Instead, ministers had urged venues such as clubs and sports stadiums to introduce them as a matter of “social responsibility”.
But after footage emerged of packed clubs on Monday, after the government allowed them to reopen as part of so-called “freedom day”, Johnson said he expected to make the system mandatory from the autumn.
And he said customers would no longer be allowed to show a negative test result, but would have to be double-vaccinated. Ministers hope the move will help to encourage younger people to have the jab over the summer.
Addressing himself directly to younger people, Johnson said: “Some of life’s most important pleasures and opportunities are likely to be increasingly dependent on vaccination.”
The vaccines minister, Nadhim Zahawi, had earlier briefed MPs on the plans after almost all legal Covid restrictions, including those on social gatherings and mask-wearing, were scrapped at midnight despite concerns about a significant “exit wave”.
Zahawi said: “I encourage businesses to draw on support and use the NHS Covid pass in the weeks ahead. We will be keeping a close watch on how it is used by venues and we reserve the right to mandate it. By the end of September everyone aged 18 and over will have the chance to receive full vaccination and the additional two weeks for that protection to really take hold.”
“At that point we make full vaccination a condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather. Proof of a negative test will no longer be sufficient. Any decisions will of course be subject to parliamentary scrutiny.”
The latest survey from the Office for National Statistics, carried out in the month to 20 June, found around 10% of all people aged 16-29 reported being hesitant to get the Covid vaccine, dropping to 5% for those aged 30-49 and 1% for over-50s.