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Mixed reaction to Covid passes in Europe

Some welcome moves as "quickest way to get back to normal", but there's demand for more clarity in the UK

By James Drury on 22 Jul 2021

Pass sanitaire

Pass sanitaire

As governments across Europe implement or consider enforcing ‘Covid passes’ or ‘passports’ as a condition of entry to concerts and other indoor events, there’s been a mixed response from the live industry.

Since yesterday (21 July) concertgoers in France are required to show a Pass Sanitaire before entering any venue over 50 capacity. The digital or paper document proves the holder has either had a negative Covid test recently or had both vaccinations.

For events with more than 1,000 attendees, this law was in place since May. Angelo Gopee, general manager of Live Nation France, says the tightening of the rules means additional work for venues, security and staff.

“We have a festival this weekend in Fontainbleu with 2,500 people per night for seated shows. We have put in place a Covid control point before security, so people can show their Pass Sanitaire. It’s not ideal, but there’s nothing else we can do for now.

“I think people should see this move as an opportunity to see more concerts.”

AEG Presents France GM and VP, Arnaud Meerseeman tells IQ: “There were protests against the Pass Sanitaire last weekend – I think about 100,000 people across 20 cities came out, but polling shows 62% of people approve of the pass.

“I think this is the best way to get back to business and to nudge people into getting their vaccinations.”

“There has been some moaning in the industry about the potential impact on ticket sales because it adds another layer of friction for the customer at a time when the sector has been hit hard already. But I don’t agree. I think this is the best way to get back to business and to nudge people into getting their vaccinations. It will take a while to come into play and it’s very new, but because people have to use this pass for transport and to go to restaurants I think it will soon become second nature.”

In the UK, the government insists it will push ahead with plans for vaccine passes. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced this week that from September people will have to prove they have had both vaccinations as a condition of entry to nightclubs, venues, and other crowded indoor settings.

Phil Bowdery, chair of the Concert Promoters Association told IQ: “With September only a few months away, what the live music sector urgently needs from Government is clarity, details and guidelines. Any new proposals should be designed primarily to make venues as safe as possible, which is why we are surprised that testing seems to have fallen away given the entire Event Research Programme was based on that.

“We are also crystal clear that there must be fairness in how this is applied. Small music venues – the same size as many pubs, restaurants and other hospitality businesses, which are likely not to be affected by this policy – must not be treated any differently when it comes to the need for proof of vaccine certification.”

CPA chair Phil Bowdery

Concert Promoters Association chair Phil Bowdery

The opposition Labour Party said it was against the use of vaccination passports. A spokesperson told The Times: “It’s costly, open to fraud, and is impractical. Being double jabbed doesn’t prove you aren’t carrying the virus. Testing for access to venues would be more efficient, and would give people and businesses more certainty.”

In Austria, people have to show proof of a negative Covid test or of being fully vaccinated before attending venues, bars theatres and other indoor spaces. The country offers free tests at drop-in centres. Other countries, such as Italy and Ireland are considering implementing similar protocols for indoor events. Ireland currently does not allow indoor events, and there is a 500-capacity limit on outdoor concerts.

“I will not perform on any stage where there is a discriminated audience present.”

The moves come as Eric Clapton announced he could refuse to play at any venues that require people to prove they’ve been vaccinated. In a statement released through the Telegram account of film producer Robin Monotti, the guitarist said: “Following the PM’s announcement on Monday the 19th of July 2021 I feel honour bound to make an announcement of my own: I wish to say that I will not perform on any stage where there is a discriminated audience present. Unless there is provision made for all people to attend, I reserve the right to cancel the show.”


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