Full vaccination will be a condition of entry to nightclubs from the end of September, Boris Johnson has announced.
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, the prime minister said not enough young people were taking up the offer of their first dose, with 35% of those aged 18-30, 3 million people, still completely unvaccinated.
“Some of life’s most important pleasures and opportunities are likely to be increasingly dependent on vaccination,” he said.
“I should serve notice now that by the end of September, when all over-18s will have had their chance to be double jabbed, we are planning to make full vaccination the condition of entry to nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather.”
Johnson added: “I don’t want to have to close nightclubs again.”
Most of England’s remaining lockdown restrictions were lifted today, with nightclubs opening up for the first time since the pandemic hit the UK in 2020.
Johnson also announced isolation rules will be relaxed for a “small number” of fully-vaccinated critical workers who are identified as a close contact of a coronavirus case.
Speaking virtually from his Chequers retreat, where he is isolating, Johnson said it was necessary to keep the quarantine rules largely unchanged until August 16 when a testing regime will replace the requirement for the fully-vaccinated.
But he added: “In the meantime I want to assure you that we will protect crucial services including the staffing of our hospitals and our care homes, the supplies of food, water electricity and medicines, the running of our trains, the protection of our borders, the defence of our realm by making sure that a small number – a very small number – of named fully-vaccinated critical workers are able to leave their isolation solely for the the work that I have described.
“But for the vast majority of us, myself included, I’m afraid we do need to stick with this system for now.”
Despite a rise in Covid cases and his warning about the number of young people who had been jabbed, Johnson defended scrapping the rules.
“There comes a point after so many have been vaccinated when further restrictions no longer prevent hospitalisations and deaths but simply delay the inevitable,” he said. “So we have to ask ourselves the question: if not now, when?”
Labour leader Keir Starmer branded the wholesale unlocking “reckless”, while Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said talk of “freedom day” is “not sensible” given the UK is recording around 50,000 new Covid cases per day.
Professor Andrew Hayward, a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), stressed that if the public do not take a cautious approach to their rediscovered freedoms, the country could “move into the mid and high tens of thousands of deaths” in what he called the “biggest wave of Covid infection that we have ever seen”.