Covid 19 - Plan B and Passport Consultation

28 Sep

The government is gearing up the Plan B position despite the hope that we will never need it.

Yesterday we saw the issue of an invitation to respond to the detail on the proposed certification regime, which could be introduced as part of Plan B. The documentation stated this opportunity for engagement will enable the government to take into account relevant comments and views and make any warranted revisions.

The full invitation is contained here: 'Proposal for mandatory COVID certification in a Plan B scenario: call for evidence'.

The consultation is open until 11th October 2021 at 11.45.

However, to fully engage on the consultation there is an additional document which contains more detail as to the proposals and terms of implementation.

Proposal for mandatory COVID certification in a Plan B scenario - described as ‘This document fulfils the commitment, set out in the Autumn and Winter Plan, to provide organisations with more detail about the proposed certification regime that would be introduced as part of Plan B’.

The document compares the possible implementation of Plan B to the more draconian action of closure stating:

The government intends to take a proportionate approach, balancing the impact on public health with the economic and social impacts. The policy would be focussed on settings where crowds mix and come into close contact. Mandating vaccine-only certification could allow settings that have experienced long periods of closure to remain open and is preferable to closing venues entirely or reimposing capacity caps or social distancing.”

The paper clarifies the extent of the coverage in that it would be introduced for the following venues and events:

  • all nightclubs and other venues open after 1am with alcohol, music and dancing

  • indoor events with 500 or more attendees where those attendees are likely to stand and mix to a significant degree, or move around during the event, such as music venues or large receptions

  • outdoor, crowded settings with 4,000 or more attendees where those attendees are likely to stand, or move around during the event, such as outdoor festivals

  • any settings with 10,000 or more attendees, such as large sports and music stadia

The government hopes that it would not be necessary to mandate vaccine certification more widely than these settings, though as the Autumn and Winter Plan explained this cannot be entirely ruled out.

There are some settings that would be exempt from requirements to use certification, including communal worship, wedding ceremonies, funerals and other commemorative events; guidance on minimising risk in these settings will be provided. Free, unticketed outdoor events in public spaces, including street parties, protests and mass participation sporting events, would also be exempt.

Further detail is offered as to what would constitute the triggering criteria:

  • all nightclubs, dance halls and discotheques would be in scope. In addition, any other setting that shares specified characteristics with these venues would also be in scope.

  • this would be determined by a setting meeting all of the following criteria:

    • is open between 1am and 5am

    • serves alcohol during this period

    • has a dance floor or space for dancing to be used by members of the public

    • provides music for that dancing

Is there an option to fall out of the relevant triggering criteria, yes it would appear so as the document states:

Where these venues do not meet all of these criteria, they would not be required to implement certification. For example, a bar would not have to implement certification if it closed before 1am, ceased serving alcohol by 1am, turned off its music for dancing, or closed its dancefloor or any other space for dancing.

Nightclubs, dance halls and discotheques would no longer be required to implement certification if they closed their dancefloors or turned off their music for dancing. For example, a nightclub would no longer be required to implement certification if it repurposed as a bar by covering its dancefloor with tables and chairs.”

There will be enforcement if implemented and those operating under the passport scheme would need to evidence compliance, documentation would be expected to include the following:

  • the date of the event, or for a venue, the date to which the records relate

  • the number of people attending the venue or event

  • if they have departed from their statement of certification policy:

  • the reasons for so doing

  • the measures which were adopted on that occasion

  • how an individual’s eligibility to enter the venue was checked

  • the number of occasions on which measures other than full checks were agreed with the local authority

  • the number of occasions on which people have been permitted to enter the event or venue without the need for certification checks to avoid injury or escape a risk of harm

  • records and statements would need to be retained for a period of 3 months.

  • local authorities would have powers to request these documents within 3 working days or as part of an inspection. 

There is also set out the following expectations upon operators:

Businesses would be expected to produce, and keep up to date, a statement of their certification policy, setting out the measures they would introduce to ensure that they are meeting and implementing their certification requirements and to ensure the public were aware of these measures.

Events held in venues with capacities greater than the thresholds, but which limit their capacities and therefore do not apply certification, would need to evidence how they will avoid exceeding the thresholds.

Organisations would be expected to conduct 100% visual checks on attendees. However, while certification would be a legal requirement, if introduced, and would be designed to protect public health, the immediate safety of visitors and the workforce would always come first.

In some limited circumstances, the government recognises that it may not be reasonably possible for 100% visual checks of visitors’ COVID status to be carried out without endangering the safety of those attending the venue or event should mandatory certification come into force. In these cases, the responsible person may agree ‘reasonable measures’ to check or spot check visitors’ COVID status with their local authority. Venues would also always be able to admit people to enter to avoid injury or escape a risk of harm (for example to address or avoid a medical emergency) without the need for certification checks.

Law correct at the date of publication.
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