Could vaccine passports be used in theatres?
With the Coronavirus roadmap detailing the easing of lockdown restrictions in England, mentions of so-called “vaccine passports” have dominated headlines. Although the previously announced roadmap states that theatres can open in step 3, from as early as 17 May, discussion about who will be allowed to go to in-person performances continues.
But, what does this mean for West End theatres? Here’s everything you need to know about vaccine passports and theatre.
What is a vaccine passport?
Currently, any individual who has received either one or both doses of the Coronavirus vaccine receives a vaccination card. This vaccination card details the type of vaccine they’ve had, as well as dates and times, with all details going in their medical records. Essentially, once you’ve had a Coronavirus vaccine jab, you should in theory be immune to the virus. A vaccine passport would mean that, if you have had a dose of the Covid-19 vaccination, you’d be allowed to enter certain places of leisure, including theatres, pubs, restaurants and museums.
At the moment, there are no vaccine passports in the United Kingdom. Those who have had the Coronavirus jab could have their status updated on the NHS Test and Trace app.
What has Prime Minister Boris Johnson said about vaccine passports?
Speaking about the concept of vaccine passports to open up the economy after the Coronavirus pandemic, Boris Johnson believes “deep and complex issues” to certify Covid jabs could do more harm.
As quoted by BBC News, Boris Johnson said using initiatives such as vaccine passports are a "novelty for our country", something that couldn’t be used in other countries due to England’s fast-paced vaccination programme.
Expanded further by Sky News, Johnson said: “We've never thought in terms of having something that you have to show to go to a pub or theatre. There are deep and complex issues that we need to explore, ethical issues about what the role is for government in mandating people to have such a thing or, indeed, banning people from doing such a thing.”
Clearly, using vaccine passports is a path that Boris Johnson may not want to take, as it opens up society for a select proportion, in turn going against the nationwide steps that are laid out in the roadmap. Yet with England in a unique position due to lowering cases and a fast vaccination rollout, could vaccine passports be the key to getting to the elusive “step four” on 21 June, where social distancing rules are not needed? Only time will tell.
Who is in support of vaccine passports?
The British public seem to be in general support of the use of vaccine passports. In a survey reported by The Independent, over two-thirds of people are in favour of introducing them, even if it means parts of society will be allowed to go back to "normal" before others.
Could theatres be given Covid certificates to open safely?
From the latest information as stated in the 68-page Coronavirus roadmap, permission to reopen venues will be led by four criteria:
1. How successful the vaccine scheme is.
2. Continued vaccine effectiveness to lower the rates of transmission.
3. Infection rates low enough for no risk in surge hospital admissions.
4. No concerning Coronavirus variants that pose a large threat to society.
Theatres will not be able to open until 17 May at the earliest, opening at either 50% capacity or 1,000 audience members, whichever is lower. Social distancing will also be enforced at all times, as well as hand sanitiser stations, temperature checks and one-way movement around the venue. Although “Covid certificates” for theatres opening again in the coming months have not been confirmed, it’s likely that theatres will be checked regularly to ensure safety of employees, audiences and performers.
How many people have been vaccinated against Coronavirus so far?
To date, over 15 million people have received their first dose of the Coronavirus vaccine. Over 500,000 have been given their second dose. At the moment, advice states that the second dose should be given three weeks after the first dose.
Could vaccine passports stop people from going to the theatre?
If theatres were to operate with vaccine passports in mind, this could mean that only those who have been vaccinated would be allowed to attend live performances. So far, the vaccine is prioritised to those deemed vulnerable and most at risk of serious complications if they contract Coronavirus.
At the current rate, the Prime Minister has pledged that all adults will have been offered their first Covid vaccine dose by 31 July. So, if theatres were to open in May, as stated by the initial roadmap, some members of the general public may not be allowed to visit live shows until they’re vaccinated. But, having vaccine passports as a requirement for entering theatres may mean that theatres could be allowed a greater number of audience members in return.
Would vaccine passports be needed at outdoor theatres?
So far, there’s been no distinction between the types of theatres that would need vaccine passports, if instated. Therefore, if vaccine passports were used, they'd be needed at outdoor theatres.
Outdoor theatres with open-air performances were allowed to take place in 2020, with concert performances of Jesus Christ Superstar at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre being one of London’s main theatre events last summer. After a successful, uninterrupted run, representatives from open-air theatres have called for outdoor theatres to be opened first, as they’re safer in indoor theatres where ventilation can pose an issue.
At the moment, no theatres have updated their performance schedule for spring and summer 2020 as a direct result of the Coronavirus roadmap. For the latest West End theatre news, make sure you check back often on LondonTheatre.co.uk.
Should I be worried if I want to see a show and won’t have a vaccine passport?
Right now, discussions of a vaccine passport are in their early stages, and if made law, are unlikely to be introduced for some time. By the time vaccine passports are introduced into society, it’s likely a greater proportion of the country will be vaccinated, meaning more people can go to the theatre.
The West End will be home to world premieres like Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Story, as well as new London musicals like Back to the Future and Frozen. Find out our top 10 shows coming to London in 2021 and book theatre tickets with LondonTheatre.co.uk.