'Huge relief' as Welsh Government opts not to extend NHS Covid Pass policy across hospitality

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

'Huge relief' as Welsh Government opts not to extend NHS Covid Pass policy across hospitality

Related tags: Vaccine passport, Wales, Scotland, ukhospitality

UKHospitality Cymru has warmly welcomed a ministerial announcement that there are 'no immediate plans' to extend Covid passes into more parts of hospitality in Wales.

Yesterday's Senedd statement, by Finance Minister Rebecca Evans, was described as 'a huge relief' for thousands of businesses across Wales by David Chapman, UKHospitality’s executive director for Wales. 

He said: “Night time businesses in Wales are already reporting a double digit drop in trade linked to the enforcement of Covid Pass restrictions - and the wider industry fears economic instability and simply not having enough staff to cope with across the board restrictions.

“We await the three-weekly review for full details, but the Finance Minister’s prompt statement allows our businesses to plan for immediate trade and we’re grateful for that important heads-up.”

Compulsory NHS Covid passes were introduced in Wales last month​, and are currently required to enter nightclubs; indoor, non-seated events for more than 500 people, such as concerts or conventions; outdoor non-seated events for more than 4,000 people; and any setting or event with more than 10,000 people in attendance.

However, First Minister Mark Drakeford suggested earlier this month​ that the policy could be extended to more hospitality venues.

According to Chapman, NHS Covid Passes in Wales are cutting trade, pushing up costs, stretching staff resources to the limit and negatively affecting public perceptions of sound and tested industry safety regimes.

If the passes were rolled out more widely, he predicts they would likely to restrict hospitality trade by up to 15% in the run-up to the festive season, damaging industry recovery and jeopardising new year business and job sustainability.

“Up to a third of each business’s annual trade is conducted in the weeks running up to Christmas and the New Year, so to lose any of that vital revenue would impact the next twelve months, not least the subsequent three quieter months," he added.

“For all of our businesses, staffing and recruitment is a major issue and to have members of staff constantly tied up checking passes would put huge pressure on others trying serve customers.

"All evidence suggests that almost all transmission take place away from our premises, so there is no obvious and valid argument for struggling hospitality businesses to be singled out for restrictions.”

'Stay of execution' in Scotland

Meanwhile, Scotland’s hospitality sector said it was facing a 'stay of execution' after Nicola Sturgeon announced no decision will be made on extending Covid vaccine passports until next week.

The First Minister had been expected to confirm whether the country's so-called 'vaccine passport' scheme, which came into effect back in October, would be extended to further hospitality settings, but instead she told MSPs that the final decision would not happen until next Tuesday (23 November) with any changes that do come in set to apply from 6 December.

Sturgeon revealed the Scottish Government is considering extending the requirement for people to prove they have been double-jabbed to indoor cinemas, theatres, and 'some other licensed and hospitality premises'.

An evidence paper is being produced, with ministers pledging to consult businesses.

The Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA) has described the First Minister’s announcement as 'very unwelcome', stating: “While there is to be no extension to the existing Covid ‘passport’ scheme at the moment, widening vaccine certification to pubs, bars, restaurants and the wider hospitality industry will force many premises into closure.”
Colin Wilkinson, the SLTA’s managing director, said: “Businesses need time to plan for something major like this and vague comments like those from Nicola Sturgeon that new Covid passport rules, if agreed, would take effect from December 6 and apply to indoor cinemas, theatres, and some licensed and hospitality venues, do nothing to help the sector and instead leave us in limbo for another week as we approach the vital Christmas and New Year trading period.

"Such comments not only have a huge negative effect on business and staff morale, but also dent customer confidence.
“[This] announcement is clearly a stay of execution as we wait for next week’s update and reiterate again to the Government that extending the Covid 'passport' scheme will make it extremely difficult for businesses to survive at a time when they are only just starting to build back from previous lockdown closures.”

Yesterday, ahead of the First Minister's statement, Scotland’s hospitality trade bodies have released joint survey results highlighting the ‘impossible financial situation’ that an extension of vaccine certification would put the sector in​.

A survey of more than 150 business owners by bodies including the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) and UKHospitality found that 76.2% of businesses believe they would not survive the winter without further Government support should the use of ‘vaccine passports’ be extended to the wider sector.

In addition, it found that if vaccine certification was extended to wider hospitality 95.4% of respondents would have to cut staff hours if trade reduced as expected.

Related topics: Business & Legislation

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