Although England celebrated its so-called ‘Freedom Day’ yesterday, last night Prime Minister Boris Johnson made the controversial announcement that ‘vaccine passports’ will be required for entry to all nightclubs and in-door gatherings by the end of September. This comes despite the government repeatedly assuring the night time industry that this would never be the case.

To qualify for the passport and therefore entry, punters will have to prove that they have had both doses of the vaccine, but according to the latest figures, 35% of 18 to 30-year-olds have not had their first jab. It had previously been suggested that a simple negative test would be enough for entry, but under the new rules they will no longer be accepted without both jabs.

The PM—who is self-isolating after being in close contact with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who recently contracted COVID-19—said he has major concerns about how quickly the virus is being transmitted even as the vaccines are rolled out.

In a press conference yesterday, July 19, the PM announced: “I don’t want to have to close nightclubs again as they have elsewhere. But it does mean nightclubs need to do the socially responsible thing. As we said last week, we do reserve the right to mandate certification at any point if it’s necessary to reduce transmission. And I should serve notice now that by the end of September, when all over 18s have had their chance to be double jabbed we’re planning to make full vaccination the condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather.”

Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance described nightclubs and other such venues as “potential super spreading events”, adding: “I would expect that with opening of nightclubs, we’ll continue to see an increase in cases, and we will see outbreaks related to specific nightclubs as well.”

Meanwhile, Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, said that the announcement amounted to a “chaotic u-turn” and would only increase confusion and resentment in the industry. “So, ‘freedom day’ for nightclubs lasted around 17 hours then,” he said. “The announcement from the Prime Minister that COVID passports will be made mandatory for nightclubs in September comes after his Health Secretary said only one week ago that they would not be compulsory. What an absolute shambles.”

Kill also raised some serious concerns about the practicalities of implementing the scheme: “Leaving aside the fact that this is yet another chaotic u-turn that will leave nightclubs who have been planning for reopening for months will now have to make more changes to the way they operate—this is still a bad idea. 80% of nightclubs have said they do not want to implement COVID passports, worrying about difficulties with enforcing the system and a reduction in spontaneous consumers, as well as being put at a competitive disadvantage with pubs and bars that aren’t subject to the same restrictions and yet provide similar environments.

“The Government’s own report into vaccine passports found they were more trouble than they’re worth—so what could possibly explain the about turn, just as millions across the UK experience their first taste of a night out in a year and a half?”