The ongoing saga of whether vaccine passports will be required to enter nightclubs and large events has taken yet another turn, with the unveiling of the Government’s Autumn & Winter plan that states vaccine passports could be introduced at one week’s notice.

In an interview with the BBC at the weekend, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the passport scheme would not go ahead from the end of this month, as previously announced, and that ministers shouldn’t be “doing things for the sake of it”.

Today, October 14, Javid announced in the House of Commons the Government’s Autumn And Winter plan, which involves the passport scheme being held in reserve and, if necessary, instigated as part of a “Plan B” to help prevent “unsustainable pressure” on the NHS over the period.

He said the Government’s “Plan B” may also include the reintroduction of compulsory face coverings in certain settings.

The Autumn And Winter plan states: “If Plan B is implemented, it could be at short notice in response to concerning data. Therefore, in order to help businesses prepare their own contingency plans, the Government will shortly publish more detail about the proposed certification regime that would be introduced as part of Plan B. The Government would seek to give businesses at least one week’s notice before mandatory vaccine certification came into force.”

If introduced, the scheme would involve nightclubs and other indoor venues where there is an attendance of 500 or more, as well as outdoor sports stadiums with an attendance of 10,000 people or more.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said, “Over 200 events have already used Covid certification voluntarily. It’s just not sensible to rule out completely this kind of option now. When we must face the fact that it might still make the difference between keeping businesses open at full capacity or not.”

In response to the announcement, NTIA CEO Michael Kill said, “On Sunday, the sector was rejoicing that our campaigning efforts had paid off and that the policy around Covid passports was dead. Today, businesses up and down the country are once again thinking they may have to make an enormous and detrimental change to their operating model in the future, if infection rates increase.”

“The idea too, that a vast and logistically challenging policy can be kept in ‘reserve’ and implemented at one week’s notice, as has been reported, is absurd. It is no way to treat a sector that has already been so badly hit. Sometimes it feels like ministers have no idea what it is like to run a business, let alone the types of businesses we represent.”

“We have already seen the impact of the potential implementation of Covid passports, with an estimated 30% drop in trade, ticket sales flatlining for events and workforce displacing to other industries with less stringent restrictions. This policy would do so much damage.”

“The Government needs to recognise the sacrifices made by businesses within hospitality and the night time economy against the public health crisis, being one of the hardest hit sectors during the pandemic. Businesses need certainty if they are to have the confidence to invest and rebuild our industry. To give them this certainty, the Government should be clear that vaccine passports have been scrapped completely and aren’t part of any ‘Plan B’.”

The Autumn & Winter plan is available here.