Vaccines passports could spell the end for struggling pubs, forcing staff into a “bitter civil liberties war” with customers, Wetherspoons boss Tim Martin has claimed.
Ministers are looking at using coronavirus health certificates as England emerges from lockdown in the coming weeks.
That could mean that people will only be allowed in venues if they have been jabbed, received negative test results or developed coronavirus antibodies through past infection.
But Conservative backbenchers, publicans and some scientists have raised concerns about the scheme – and Martin, the most recognisable pub landlord in the country, has added his weight to their fears.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, the Spoons chief said that there was no justification for a passport system.
“For many pubs, hanging on for dear life and devastated by G-force changes of direction, a complex and controversial passport scheme would be the last straw,” he wrote.
“It would inevitably put pub staff in the front line of a bitter civil liberties war, with some customers unwilling to be vaccinated or unable to have a jab for medical reasons.”
Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary, said on Sunday that vaccine passports would not be introduced on a permanent basis, but could be a beneficial tool to restart businesses safely in the short-term.
He added that the government needed to look at all options for safely easing restrictions.
“Of course, we would never look to do this on a permanent basis, it’s just whether it might be a tool in the short term,” he told The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One.
Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford said he was prepared to consider vaccine certificates provided they were “fair and reliable”.
“I think there are definitely prizes to be won through domestic vaccine certification, but there are very big practical and ethical challenges to face as well,” he told Marr.
Mark Woolhouse, a member of the government’s Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (Spi-B), said the use of passports must be considered to make post-lockdown life more safe.
“For those activities that it is difficult to make completely safe – I am thinking things like nightclubs, large concerts, mass gatherings – that’s where passports come in, whether it is vaccine passports, test negative passports or even immunity passports,” he said.
But his Spi-B colleague Stephen Reicher said passports could make people more sceptical of vaccines, reducing take-up and potentially leading to “social division”.