Nightlife industry warns against stricter Covid measures as punters stay away

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Nightlife industry warns against stricter Covid measures as punters stay away
© Getty Images “Freedom Day”: England Emerges From Lockdown

Nightlife industry chiefs in London have warned against imposing strict Covid restrictions as the sector tries to bounce back from almost two years of disruption.

On Wednesday, leading epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson said that a lockdown in January should not be ruled out if hospitalisations increase rapidly over Christmas and New Year.

With more than 560 cases of the Omicron variant now identified in the UK, reports are circulating that Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to introduce “Plan B” measures as early as Thursday.

This could include measures such as vaccine passports for large venues like nightclubs, as well as the reintroduction of working from home guidance.

The news of potential new restrictions coincided with the release of a new report from the London Assembly that called for “continuous support” for London’s night-time economy “to keep the lights on” for struggling businesses.

Speaking at the launch of the report on Wednesday, Music Venues Trust CEO Mark Davyd told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that imposing stricter measures on nightlife venues “is not helping” to stop the spread of the virus elsewhere in Europe.

Mr Davyd said: “The number of people who visit nightclubs compared to the general population is a tiny percentage, and the number of cases we have that are traceable to nightclubs is a tiny percentage. There is this automatic reaction that the night-time economy needs to be clamped down on, but it doesn’t really do a great deal to prevent the spread of this virus. We need more decisive action with things like working from home, things like control measures such as mask wearing. These are things that actually help.”

Countries including France and Germany have already moved to restrict capacity in some settings and close nightclubs altogether as the Omicron variant sweeps across Europe.

While there are currently no plans to do the same in the UK, Mr Davyd warned that the industry is already starting to feel the effects with a drop in advanced bookings being put down to a lack of consumer confidence.

Mr Davyd said that some events may end up being cancelled “not because of Covid, but because of lack of confidence”, as shows need to be at around 80 per cent capacity to be economically viable.

Currently, advanced ticket sales for concerts and shows in London are “down by between 25 and 30 per cent”, while advanced sales in January are expected to be down by up to 35 per cent below expected levels.

London Assembly Member Shaun Bailey, chair of the economy committee which published the report, said that the “devastation” of another lockdown on the industry “would be clear”.

Mr Bailey said: “You only have to look at history: the night-time economy disappeared overnight and because of the nature of its activities, it stops dead. That was very tough, so we’d really like to avoid that if possible.”

The Plan B measures as outlined by the Government in September would mean that nightclubs would require a vaccine passport for entry, while there are currently no plans to close them entirely or impose a lockdown.

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