(Reuters) – Nightclub owners in London criticised new restrictions to halt the spread of coronavirus variants that will go into effect on Wednesday, saying that a lack of rapid COVID-19 tests will make enforcement a “big challenge”.
Last week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the new “Plan B” measures to tackle the spread of the Omicron variant, including the use of COVID-19 vaccine passes to enter some venues such as nightclubs and settings with larger crowds. Negative rapid tests, known as lateral flow tests, will also be accepted.
Britain has registered almost 4,500 cases of Omicron, with 10 people hospitalised and one person dying after contracting the variant.
Parliament passed the new rules on Tuesday though 99 members of Johnson’s ruling Conservative Party voted against them in a sign of increasing unhappiness with his leadership.
Kate Fuller, who owns the Electric Ballroom nightclub in Camden in north London wants to work with the government as much as possible but the lack of available rapid testing is a problem for her business.
“Since the announcement of the restrictions, our business just took a massive downturn,” she said on Tuesday. “There’s no testing in a lot of the pharmacies. If you can’t get the tests, it’s going to be really hard for people to come.”
“I think for our security and everything, implementing these is just going to be, you know, a big challenge,” Fuller said.
The new rules will apply to unseated indoor events with 500 people or more, unseated outdoor events with over 4,000 people and events with more than 10,000 attendees.
Clara Cullen, the venue support manager at charity Music Venue Trust, which supports around 900 music venues in the country, said there had been an increase in cancellations with income falling by 27% in the past week.
“There will be financial implications to trying to implement the Plan B,” said Cullen.
The pandemic forced entertainment venues in England to close their doors in March 2020. They slowly began re-opening in May with safety measures in place.
(Reporting by Will Russell, Ben Makori and Mindy Burrows; Writing by Christian Schmollinger; Editing by Christopher Cushing)