Debate rages over vaccination passports in pubs

The hospitality industry is facing another difficult crossroad over the coming months as it deals with the contentious issue of vaccination passports.

A survey of 1200 Australians by Glow has found that nearly six out of 10 Australians will avoid any venue or business that allows unvaccinated people to come in.

However, one in 10 Australians (11%) say they will leave their job if their employer makes the COVID-19 vaccination mandatory – a figure that rises to nearly one in five among young Australians.

The survey showed that 80% of all Australians plan to get vaccinated this year, with 11% saying they wouldn’t, and 10% saying they didn’t know whether they would or not. The survey confirmed that older Australians are more likely to want to get vaccinated, with 87% of Baby Boomers (over 55s) saying they would, compared to just 66% of Gen Zs.

As various public and trade association bodies make plans for ‘vaccine passport’ for event attendance, Glow asked whether people felt vaccinations should be mandatory to access specific public places. The research showed that support for vaccinations to access public spaces increases with respondent age.

Baby Boomers were the most likely age group to support mandatory vaccinations in cafes, restaurants and pubs (71%), sporting events (77%) and indoor concerts and theatre (79%).

In contrast 45% of Generation Z believe you shouldn’t have to be vaccinated if going to a café, restaurant or pub; 36% to a sporting event; and 35% to an indoor concert or theatre. Less than one in five Baby Boomers believe you should not have to be vaccinated to enter those spaces. 

Over the weekend, NSW hit the vaccination milestone of having 85% of the community partially vaccinated. Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the government was putting “the final touches” on its reopening policy.

Victor Dominello (above), NSW Minister for Digital and Customer Service, shows a draft of the vaccination integration with the Service NSW app.

However, Queensland and Western Australia still refuse to commit to reopening their borders when the national average reaches 80%. Additionally, the check-in app used in Queensland, Tasmania, the NT and the ACT is not designed to hold a vaccine passport.

Where does that leave venues?

An Australian Hotels Association NSW survey of more than 6500 hospitality workers revealed earlier this month that 36% of employees don’t think it should be a requirement for all hotel employees to be vaccinated.

However, 55.7% said they will be fully vaccinated by the end of October. AHA NSW CEO John Whelan said it was obvious a clear majority of hotel staff want to work in a vaccinated environment – and want to get back to work.

“Hotels have been in the economic front-line since the start of the pandemic and it’s really encouraging to see such a large percentage of our staff are already fully or partly vaccinated,” Whelan said.

“It shows how keen staff are to return to work, throw open the doors to your local and do what they do best, serve patrons in a safe, friendly environment.”

Newcastle publican and restaurant owner Luke Tilse told ABC News he had concerns about the rollout of the passport.

“I’m very excited about being open, but it’s going to be us on the frontline of the new rules that come in,” he said.

Tilse wants clear and definitive legislation and public health orders in place.

“It needs to say, ‘There is a law that will make me liable for this if I let you in, I therefore can’t do it, it is not an arguable point, it is not a grey area’,” he said. “We can blame the government, blame the laws and they can move on.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has backed businesses to reject customers or guests who haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19.

“A business under property law has the ability to say ‘No, you can’t come in’, and they can ask for that,” Morrison told 2GB radio.

He said his hopes about reopening had “nothing to do with ideology, and these issues around liberty and so on”.

“We all believe in freedom, but we also believe in people being healthy,” he said.

Fury over vaccination passports in the UK

Vaccination passports have been highly controversial in the UK.

Trade body the Night Time Industries Association (NTIA) is planning legal action against the Scottish government over its plan to introduce the vaccine passport scheme for nightclub entry from October 1.

It said in a statement: “This vaccine passport scheme as currently proposed raises serious issues with definition, market distortion, discrimination, resource allocation and economic impact amongst others, and had Scottish Government been prepared to work with sectoral experts in the earliest stages of policy formulation some of these deep rooted problems may have been avoidable.  

“It is also clear to us that the policy as currently proposed is neither proportionate, nor represents the lowest level of intervention possible to achieve the public health imperative, and it is therefore likely to be unlawful.  Regrettably then, and given the serious flaws in the policy as proposed, we have now instructed our legal team to commence proceedings against the Scottish Government with a legal challenge to vaccination passports.”

Meanwhile, Wales confirmed that it will implement vaccine passports for entry into nightclubs, while England has scrapped its plans to introduce the measure.

Cities including New York and Paris have mandated vaccinations for entry to cafes, bars and concerts.

How they will be received – and policed – in Australia remains to be seen. But there is unity on one point: the hospitality industry is on its knees and it desperately needs a path out of the uncertainty of lockdowns.

Skills Connect helps hospitality industry re-staff after lockdowns

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