British PM Boris Johnson Mandates COVID-19 Passes to Enter Nightclubs, Large Gatherings

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has enacted a measure that aims to reduce transmission of COVID-19 as the omicron variant expands throughout the country.

Starting next week, those who want to attend gatherings in large public spaces such as nightclubs will need to provide a COVID-19 pass. This pass will show that the carrier has received both vaccine doses against the virus. Mandatory face masks will also be extended to most indoor public places this Friday.

"It has become increasingly clear that omicron is growing much faster than the previous delta variant and is spreading rapidly all around the world," said Johnson during a press conference on Wednesday. "Most worryingly, there is evidence that the doubling time of omicron could currently be between two and three days."

According to Johnson, 568 cases of COVID-19 attributed to the omicron variant have been recorded in the U.K. He fears that "the true number is...much higher" than that, however. Scientists in the country are predicting that it will quickly become the dominant strain within two to four weeks, overtaking the current variant delta.

Because of the uncertain path of omicron in the country, stricter measures had to be implemented in order to curb the spread. The stricter restrictions were also implemented to encourage fully vaccinated citizens to receive a booster shot. Public health officials hope to have boosters available to all adults by the end of January 2022.

However, these new restrictions are causing blowback among business owners. Nightclubs and music venues have long been advocating against vaccine passports, which they claim will hurt their businesses. The new restrictions were reported to be "devastating" to these structures, especially as they are "just finding [their] feet again after prolonged periods of closure and restrictions."

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A general view of a closed Secrets a gentlemen's show bar and night club in Covent Garden on February 15, 2021 in London, England. Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images

He said while there wasn't yet comprehensive data on how dangerous omicron is, rising hospitalization rates in South Africa, where the variant was first detected, suggested it has the potential to cause harm.

The U.K. Health Security Agency said so far most cases were located in London and southeast England.

Johnson said beginning next Monday, people should work from home if possible.

The blow regarding the vaccination passport to venues and nightclubs is particularly hard ahead of the crucial Christmas and New Year period, they said.

The British government reported another 51,342 confirmed daily cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday, with 161 more people dying. Overall Britain has seen over 146,000 deaths in the pandemic, the second-worst death toll in Europe after Russia.

The announcement came as Johnson and his government faced increasing pressure to explain reports that Downing Street staff enjoyed a Christmas party that breached the country's coronavirus rules last winter when cases of the delta variant soared and people were banned from holding most social gatherings. Johnson on Wednesday ordered an inquiry and said he was "furious" about the situation.

The revelations have angered many in Britain, with critics saying they heavily undermine the authority of Johnson's Conservative government in imposing virus restrictions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Johnson Omicron
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at a press conference in London's Downing Street, Wednesday Dec. 8, 2021, after ministers met to consider imposing new restrictions in response to rising cases and the spread of the omicron variant. Adrian Dennis/Pool via AP