Covid: No extension to Scottish vaccine passport scheme

Scotland’s vaccine passport system will not be extended to more venues, Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

The first minister had been considering expanding the scheme to cover cinemas, theatres and other hospitality venues.

But she told MSPs that it would not be proportionate to do so, with case numbers having fallen slightly.

People will be allowed to present a negative test rather than proof of two jabs to enter venues that are already covered by the scheme from 6 December.

These include nightclubs and large events such as some football matches and concerts.

Ms Sturgeon said taking a lateral flow test before socialising with others over the festive period was a “vitally important” step in minimising the spread of the virus.

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“I welcome the change to include a negative test from now on but frankly we are in this position because the government couldn’t accept it was wrong and move in the right direction.”

A government evidence paper had suggested Scotland faced a choice between either extending the vaccine passport system or closing down venues and limiting the number of people who can meet up.

However, ministers ultimately decided to do neither after studying the latest data at a meeting of Ms Sturgeon’s cabinet on Tuesday morning.

The first minister said that while Scotland was still in a precarious position, with “significant and sustained” pressure on the NHS, the data was actually “more positive than we might have expected it to be”.

Ms Sturgeon said the spread of the virus had stabilised – with the average number of new cases recorded each day falling by about 3% over the past week.

She said that given the “inevitable impact vaccine certification has on the operation of businesses”, ministers had concluded that extending the scheme would therefore not be proportionate.

However, venues which remain covered by the scheme will be allowed to accept a negative lateral flow test instead of proof of vaccination from 6 December – as already happens in many other countries that have introduced vaccine passports.

Ms Sturgeon said this had originally been left out of the scheme to help drive up vaccination rates, but that high uptake rates meant testing could now be included as an alternative.


people in pub

Image source, PA Media

The first minister also urged people to get vaccinated before socialising over the festive period, saying: “You could well be having your own life, and the lives of your loved ones.

“You will be helping the NHS, and you will be maximising our chances of getting through this winter without the need for further restrictions.”

Hospitality bosses had warned that pubs and restaurants could face an “avalanche of cancellations” if the certification scheme had been extended over the normally busy Christmas period.

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce said it was “unconvinced that the public health benefits outweigh the negatives for individuals, businesses and the economy.”

‘Incorrect priority’

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Sandesh Gulhane said the government seemed to be “making it up as they go along”.

He said: “The uncertainty that this government has left hanging over businesses for the last two weeks has been unnecessary and unacceptable.”

And Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said the government had been “determined to be seen to be doing something, rather than doing the right thing”.

He added: “We have spent months pursuing the incorrect priority. The government’s own evidence shows there is no real evidence of an increase in uptake of the vaccine, and transmission has not fallen.

“I welcome the change to include a negative test from now on but frankly we are in this position because the government couldn’t accept it was wrong and move in the right direction.”

Ms Sturgeon said Mr Sarwar was “fundamentally wrong”, saying allowing the use of tests in the system earlier would have “undermined the central primary objective of the scheme”, of driving up the vaccination rate.

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