Plan B restrictions: "Business as usual" for many in Lancashire, but urgent calls are made for clarity over Covid Passport checks

"We urgently need to see full details".

By Catherine Musgrove
Friday, 10th December 2021, 4:55 am

That's the call from Preston's business leaders today after the Government revealed plans for Covid vaccine passports in nightclubs and large venues from next week, in an attempt to tackle the spread of the Omicron variant.

As well as being told to work from home from Monday if possible, face masks will be compulsory in most public places, as part of new rules to limit the spread of Omicron.

>>>Click here for the latest date on where Covid cases are rising and falling in the Preston area.

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Preston Business Improvement District (BID) reacted to the news, saying: "We urgently need to see full details from Government of how required businesses are expected to implement Covid passport checks.

"Without detailed guidance and support, this could prove difficult to implement and police effectively.

"In addition, business operators will need to quickly understand where legal responsibilities for compliance with this new policy lies.

"Businesses will undoubtedly have a preference for legal responsibility to sit with individuals to comply, as it does with facemasks."

Elizabeth Grant at Detroit

Pete Alexander, the owner of the Blitz Nightclub in Church Row, Preston, has said passports would often mean turning away paying customers, and more clarity was needed on how to police it.

Speaking on the issue in September, he said: "On the surface, the vaccine passports seemed like a sensible idea because it makes it an easy way to determine who can come into a venue, but it would not have worked so easily in practice.

>>>Click here to read what the Blitz boss said in full after a Government u-turn in September.

Meanwhile, the area's smaller theatres might be able to escape wholesale changes to their operation.

Ian Robinson at Chorley Theatre

Ian Robinson of 230-seat Chorley Theatre, which opens its Snow Queen pantomime today (Friday), said: "In many ways it's ok, the show will go on. We've not had to cancel the panto.

"When we reopened in May we brought in a lot of Covid safety precautions, such as ventilation, drinks being brought to seats, and we haven't really stopped. The only thing is masks will have to go back on, and we'll have to make sure people do that."

He added: "I'm just glad that there hasn't been any mention of social distancing this time, because that would cause us big problems in terms of seating and our capacity.

"We've got 230 seats, and so we're not that big. That means that we don't need to do the Covid passports for people coming in, unlike some big theatres. If you are running a big theatre, then you're going to have to retrain your staff to deal with that as well."

Elizabeth Grant is fronting the team behind Preston's newest nightspot, Detroit, a soul and motown bar in Main Sprit Weind, off Church Street.

>>>Click here to see how the bar looks.

She said: "For us, it's business as usual, nothing changes.

"We have full table service for 150 people, your own dedicated waiter or waitress, staff have masks, and we're following every safety precaution.

"For us at the moment, there is no requirement for guests to wear masks, and there's no issue with Covid passports."

Christmas period "absolutely crucial" for sector

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night Time Industries Association, said vaccine passports would have a "devastating impact on a sector already so bruised by the pandemic".

He said: "Vaccine passports have a damaging impact on Night Time Economy businesses, as we seen in other parts of the UK where they have been implemented. Trade is down 30 per cent in Scotland and 26 per cent in Wales following their implementation.

"The UK Government have twice ruled out Vaccine Passports before twice changing their mind. The pre-Christmas period is absolutely crucial for our sector and reports today that Plan B including Vaccine Passports will have a devastating impact on a sector already so bruised by the pandemic.

“The Government’s own report on the subject concluded that vaccine passports wouldn’t even have a significant impact on virus transmission. You do, therefore, have to question the timing and rationale for this announcement. Is this sound evidence-based public policy making or is this an attempt to move the news agenda on from a damaging story about the Downing St Christmas party? Nightclubs and bars must not be thrown under the bus for the Prime Minister to save his own skin.

“And of course these businesses, who have already sacrificed so much during the pandemic, will be asking – ‘why are we being asked to carry more of the burden when it seemed that the most senior Government officials felt they didn’t need to do their bit?’”

What are the new rules for England?

From Friday, December 10, face coverings are mandatory for most indoor public venues including places of worship, theatres and cinemas - as well as on public transport and in places like shops and hairdressers.

Masks won't be needed in pubs or restaurants, nor in venues like gyms where it's "not practical to wear them".

From Monday, December 13, people should work from home "if they can".

From Wednesday, December 15, people will need an NHS Covid Pass - showing their vaccination status or a recent negative lateral flow test - to gain entry to nightclubs, indoor unseated venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people, or any venue with more than 10,000 people

The government also wants people to do a lateral flow test (LFT) before entering "a high-risk setting" - such as a crowded place - "involving people you wouldn't normally come into contact with, or when visiting a vulnerable person".