John Swinney, the SNP Deputy First Minister, has admitted that the Scottish Government is considering widening the use of its vaccine passport scheme, so that it encompasses more leisure venues including pubs, cafes, cinemas and theatres in an attempt to thwart a Christmas surge in Covid cases. At the moment, only those wishing to enter a nightclub or large venue need to provide proof that they are double vaccinated. The Telegraph has the story.
Swinney also said ministers were looking at extending the use of face masks and clamping down on workers heading back to the office, ahead of a formal review of restrictions that will be unveiled next week.
In the clearest signal yet that the Scottish Government will introduce a winter clampdown, he told MSPs that the options would be discussed with business leaders in the coming days.
Swinney argued that tightening up such “baseline protective measures” was the best way to “head off any prospect of future lockdowns”.
Although he admitted that the number of people hospitalised with Covid had declined by almost 20% over the past week, he argued previous trends suggested “the spread of the virus could, very quickly, increase again during the coming weeks, perhaps over the Christmas period”.
But Paul Waterson, Spokesman for the Scottish Licenced Trade Association, said vaccine passports could spell the “death knell” for lucrative Christmas parties. Many pubs have been relying on them for a boost to their incomes after more than a year of turmoil.
Dr. Liz Cameron, Chief Executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, warned that extending vaccine passports would be a “massive backwards step” at a “pivotal moment” in the country’s Covid recovery. Leon Thompson, Executive Director of the trade body UKHospitality Scotland, said: “The extension of this poorly conceived and badly executed policy has the potential to destroy many businesses that are already struggling.”
Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, highlighted the Deputy First Minister’s testimony to a Holyrood inquiry last week, in which he admitted there was no evidence to show vaccine passports had reduced the spread of Covid.
Mr Swinney argued it was impossible to prove a specific restriction caused a decline in Covid rates but Ross said: “It’s a mind-boggling way to make policy. They’re inventing it on the hoof.”
The Deputy First Minister disclosed that he and his colleagues were considering whether to allow people who have not been double vaccinated to access affected premises if they instead provide proof of a negative test.
But he was challenged over how premises such as cafes would be expected to enforce a vaccine passport scheme when they do not have staff at their entrances.
Since the start of October, adults have had to prove they are double vaccinated to enter nightclubs and other late-night venues with music and dancing, or attend large events such as football matches and concerts.
Worth reading in full.