BRITS who can provide proof of a Covid vaccination or negative test could be packed back into football stadiums, cinemas and theatres from June 21, the Culture Secretary declared today.
Oliver Dowden said ministers are working up plans for “Covid certificates” that would allow venues to let in big crowds and largely do away with social distancing measures to “get people back in significant numbers”.
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It comes after he told HOAR that Wembley will be stuffed with “as many people as we can” for the Euros final.
The new Covid certificates would be combined with other measures like one-way systems for fans, mask wearing, and frequent hand sanitising to help make mass events coronavirus secure.
They will be piloted indoors at the World Snooker Championship at Sheffield’s legendary Crucible on April 17, and then outdoors too during the FA Cup final on May 15 at Wembley.
Mr Dowden said: “We’ve set out a really ambitious roadmap which we’re working very hard to deliver on.
“If all goes well and vaccination remains on track as it is, and we keep the disease under control, by May 17 we’ll be back to the sort of things we saw last summer, so socially distanced performances indoor and outdoor.
“And the the big step forwards will be on June 21, which is the point at which we want to get as much back as we possibly can. I’m working really intensively on the safest way to do that.
“We’re looking at how we can ensure in indoor and outdoor settings, how we can get as many people back as we possibly can and get back to the things we really love as a nation.”
Mr Dowden insisted the new Covid certificates won’t be the same as vaccine passports, in that they won’t discriminate against people who haven’t had the jab, and said no “final decisions have been taken” on how they’ll work.
He said: “We’ve been clear that there won’t be a vaccine passport. The PM has made that very clear.
“What we have said though is in order to prove for example that you’ve had a vaccine or that you’ve had a successful negative test, we’re looking at ways to help facilitate proving that, and that may be one of the things that could help ensure we get more people back into stadiums.”
The culture secretary also said he fears for the future of many businesses in the sports and entertainment sectors if the Government doesn’t manage to get them fully open again in the next few months.
He said: “If we don’t manage to do it this summer, if we succeed with the vaccine rollout, if we succeed with getting the disease under control, I’m really worried about the future of those industries that are so vital not just to our sense of wellbeing but to the whole national economy.
“I hope we will be able to find ways against having the sort of social distancing we have at the moment because that makes is very, very difficult for theatre productions to be run properly.
“It makes it very, very difficult for our football clubs to run profitably if you have to have those large distances between people.
“We are proceeding with caution, that’s why we’re piloting different ways of mitigating against that and one of the things we’re considering as part of that is Covid certification.”
In an interview with HOAR, Mr Dowden reiterated that Britain stands ready to host more European Championship matches and is waiting for organiser UEFA’s call.
The football tournament’s semi-finals and final are already pencilled in for Wembley in July with other other matches spread over Europe.
But thanks to the UK’s gangbusters vaccine rollout and soaring Covid cases on the Continent, Britain is offering to host more games.
In an interview with HOAR, Mr Dowden said: “We are working to make sure we can get as many people as we can into the final and the semis and deal with all the other challenges around that. In terms of going further than that we stand ready, but its really for them to come to us.”
Trials start next month to allow fans back in stadiums ahead of a hoped for easing of restrictions in time of July’s spectacle and other summer highlights like Wimbledon and Lords cricket.
Mr Dowden says his number one short term goal is “getting bums on seats” and is working with Michael Gove on vaccine passports to make it happen.
He added that he is “working well with UEFA” and using “Covid certification to make it more viable for those events to go ahead with less or no social distancing.
“I’m pushing everything” to get “the kind of opening up we have not seen since before Covid hit.”
And he says he is “pretty confident we will get to that point” with things “as close to normality as we can” by July if the vaccine stays on track and cases keep coming down.
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