Following the announcement of plans for the use of COVID passes in Wales, the Music Venue Trust have released a statement responding to the new rules set out by the Welsh government.
The First Minister, Mark Drakeford, announced on Friday that Wales planned to introduce COVID vaccine and test passes – a rule which will come into effect next month, on 11th October. The new rules will require that people in Wales present a pass proving they have either been double jabbed or had a negative COVID test in order to attend “clubs and large-scale events”.
Following the controversy attached to the mandating of COVID passports in Scotland, the announcement has been met with mixed reactions. The Music Venue trust – a registered charity with an interest in improving the UK live music network – has released a statement in response to the new rules from the Welsh government. They state:
“The new Welsh government policy announcement on the requirement for a Covid pass for entry to some premises lacks detail and is already provoking confusion among both the public and venue operators.
We are pleased to see smaller gatherings for live music recognised in the framework as lower risk and therefore excluded from the policy, and that Welsh Government has included testing within their plans for certification, a significant improvement on the policy proposed in Scotland. However, the statement issued by Welsh government does not contain a definition of the type of premises to which it wishes to apply these entry requirements. It suggests it will apply to ‘nightclubs’, a term which has consistently proven to have little if any legal meaning.
The activity which Welsh government asserts presents a serious enhanced risk is dancing closely together in enclosed spaces. Such activity takes place in a huge range of pubs, bars, restaurants, wedding venues, hotels, conference centres and pretty much everywhere where celebrations through a community activity are being enjoyed. Premises not identified as ‘nightclubs’, but which are in possession of a late licence, can therefore simply adopt the normal operations of a ‘nightclub’, or continue to deliver them, without restriction.
This core problem is compounded by a number of practical issues; what restrictions apply to a premises that is used for live music until 11pm but plays recorded music after 11pm? If there are 200 people in a 501 capacity space, does the restriction apply? If a venue has multiple rooms do they count as a single room for the purposes of the capacity calculation? Do the restrictions apply to employees? What about visiting artists? How does Welsh government intend to manage the likely outcome that residents will simply travel over the border to England without these restrictions applying? What funding support is being put in place to manage the cost of implementation and the likely losses to businesses?
Music Venue Trust is not in favour of or opposed to the imposition of health certification; it is not the role of the charity to seek to lead on health policy. The Welsh Government should pursue policies it believes will have a practical impact on transmission risk. Our concern is that the policy as it currently stands significant risk of failing that key test of its purpose.
We are pleased that Welsh Government has committed to working with the sector to resolve these challenges. This must happen swiftly so that public confidence in the policy, specifically public confidence among the actual participants in the night-time economy, is established.”