Government announces masks and COVID passes for gigs, nightclubs and cinemas in England

"The introduction of Plan B results in an unfair double standard!"

Boris Johnson has announced that masks and COVID passports will be mandatory in gigs, nightclubs, theatres and cinemas in England.

From Friday (December 10), face masks will be required in cinemas and theatres, while COVID passes will be enforced for concerts and nightclubs from next Wednesday (December 15), with a negative lateral flow test also being sufficient.

It comes in the wake of the increasing spread of the Omicron variant.


Speaking at a Downing Street news conference this evening (December 8) the prime minister announced the measures in the government’s Plan B for dealing with coronavirus this winter.

“It’s now the proportionate and responsible thing to move to Plan B in England, while continuing to work closely with our colleagues in the devolved administrations so we can slow the spread of the virus,” Johnson said.

“From this Friday we will extend the legal requirement to wear face masks in most indoor public venues including theatres and cinemas. We’ll also make the NHS COVID pass mandatory for entry into nightclubs and venues where large crowds gather including unseated indoor venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and any venue with more than 10,000 people.”

These new measures have been heavily criticised by bodies across the live music industry.

“The introduction of Plan B results in an unfair double standard that allows people to go on all-day pub crawls in crowded bars without having to prove their COVID-19 status, whilst live music venues get hit with certification,” said Greg Parmley, CEO of Live music organisation LIVE.


“Across the country, music venues and events already have tried, tested and workable systems in place to ensure that live events continue to be safe – and these remain effective. However, after such a prolonged closure throughout the pandemic it is important the industry is able to remain open and that the government have listened to the industry and included the use of lateral flow testing in COVID certification.”

Nightclub Circus in Liverpool Credit: Anthony Devlin/Getty Images

Michael Kill, CEO of the Night Time Industries Association, also said that Boris Johnson “has thrown us under a bus”.

He added: “Today’s announcement of Plan B by the government is devastating news for nightlife sector. Vaccine passports have a damaging impact on Night Time Economy businesses, as we’ve seen in other parts of the UK where they have been implemented like Scotland – where trade is down 30 per cent – and Wales, where it is down 26 per cent.

“The government’s own report on the subject concluded that vaccine passports wouldn’t even have a significant impact on virus transmission – they don’t stop the spread of COVID but they do damage trade. You do, therefore, have to question the timing and rationale for this announcement. Is this sound evidence-based public policy making or is this an attempt to move the news agenda on from a damaging story about the Downing St Christmas party? It feels that nightclubs and bars have been thrown under the bus by the Prime Minister for him to save his own skin.

“And of course these businesses, who have already sacrificed so much during the pandemic, will be asking – ‘Why are we being asked to carry more of the burden when it seemed that the most senior Government officials felt they didn’t need to do their bit?’”

His comments come after a recent report claimed that COVID passports will only reduce overall community transmission by just one to five per cent.

Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd meanwhile, continued to encourage gig-goers to regularly test before and after shows to maximise safety – regardless of the new measures imposed.

“Whilst this is obviously a blow in the battle against the virus, we are pleased that the government has listened to the grassroots music venue sector and adopted a COVID pass policy that recognises testing and applies to larger gatherings – those venues operating above 500 capacity,” he said.

“MVT’s take a test policy has been extremely successful in limiting infection incidents in grassroot music venues, and we welcome the announcement that this has been recognised in the new policy.”

Both Wales and Scotland recently introduced vaccine passports for gigs and nightclubs.

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