BRITISH PRIME MINISTER Boris Johnson faces backlash over his plan to make coronavirus vaccination mandatory for nightclubs and other crowded places in the fall.
Clubs, backbenchers and opposition MPs criticized Johnson’s announcement yesterday – the day clubs in England were allowed to open for the first time since March last year.
He was also asked to clarify the relaxation of isolation rules for some critical fully vaccinated workers who are close contacts of Covid-19 cases after a government statement said it would not be a “general exemption for any sector or role”.
Speaking of self-isolation on so-called ‘freedom day,’ Johnson has warned busy places that they have to make full vaccination an entry requirement from the end of September.
Chief Science Advisor Patrick Vallance told the Downing Street press conference that clubs have the potential to cause “super-spread events”.
Johnson declined to rule out extending vaccination passports to pubs as he attended the briefing virtually from his country residence in Checkers.
Night Time Industries Association chief executive Michael Kill accused the government of “absolute mess.”
âSo the ‘freedom day’ for nightclubs lasted around 17 hours at the time,â he said.
â80% of nightclubs said they did not want to implement Covid passports, worrying about difficulties in applying the system and a reduction in spontaneous consumers, as well as a competitive disadvantage with pubs and bars which are not subject to the same restrictions while offering similar environments.
Mark Harper, the former Conservative chief whip who chairs the Covid Recovery Group of Tory lockdown-skeptics, criticized the plans as “effectively moving to mandatory vaccination.”
Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Conservative Chairman of the Health and Social Care Committee, asked why the government is delaying plans until fall.
Labor shadow Minister of Health Justin Madders said: âHow can he be sure to go to nightclubs now, without protective measures, if in September it will require double jab status? It does not mean anything.
âThis proposal is more confusion and incompetence of the heart of government at the expense of public health. They have to hang on. “
Johnson has resisted calls to announce a broader change in quarantine rules to reduce the number of people isolated amid so-called ‘pingemia’ as Covid cases soar and bosses warn against serious staff shortages.
He argued that it is necessary to keep the rules largely unchanged until August 16, when a testing regime will replace the isolation requirement for fully vaccinated contacts.
The prime minister argued that self-isolation was “one of the few shots we have left in our locker”, the day he removed most of the remaining legal restrictions and defended the relocation schedule.
But he announced limited change for a “very small number” of fully vaccinated critical workers who will be able to break out of isolation for their roles.
Johnson suggested he would cover some in hospitals and care homes, or working in food electricity and medicine supplies, and in transportation, defense and borders.
Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said the change would cover police, air traffic controllers and train marshals, and others in “circumstances where there would be a serious risk of harming public welfare if people in critical roles could not come to their place of work “.
But neither went further in defining who it would apply to and a subsequent government statement said departments would write to employers to explain their next steps.
âThis is not a general exemption for any sector or role. Decisions to inform an employer that designated critical workers are considered to have a reasonable excuse to come to work will be made by the relevant department responsible for the critical department, âsaid a spokesperson.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chief Science Officer Patrick Vallance at a press briefing in Downing Street yesterday
Source: Alberto Pezzali via PA Images
Lib Dem health spokeswoman Munira Wilson accused the government of “chaotically meddling late at night with the criteria for self-isolation” which “will be further confusion”.
“The government must stop undermining all the sacrifices we have made because of their continued incompetence and immediately give clear direction to all those affected by these changes,” she added.
The British Retail Consortium also called for clarification of who would be exempt and said retail workers and suppliers should be included for the “vital role” they have played in the pandemic.
Chief Executive Officer Helen Dickinson said: âWhile it is good that the government recognizes the problems created by an overzealous tracking and tracing system, it remains unclear who will be covered by the new list of critical workers. .
âWith cases soaring in the community, the number of healthy retail workers needing to self-isolate is rapidly increasing, threatening to disrupt retail operations and potentially shut down stores or distribution centers.
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The Prime Minister is self-isolating at his official country residence after Javid tested positive for Covid-19.
Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak first tried to avoid quarantine after being contacted by NHS Test and Trace, saying they were on a test pilot.
But in the face of growing public fury, they turned around, meaning three of the most senior ministers were among those under quarantine on ‘freedom day’.
Johnson insisted he didn’t think he was above the rules, following the failed plan that would have allowed him to continue working from Downing Street instead of isolating himself.
“I absolutely did not think so,” he said at the press conference. “I am today on Zoom or Teams or whatever brilliant system we use.”