The Scottish Government is being being urged to ditch plans for coronavirus vaccine passports and focus instead on an emergency recruitment campaign to bolster the “broken” contact tracing system.
Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Alex Cole-Hamilton made the plea to ministers ahead of Thursday’s debate on new Scottish Government plans to make coronavirus vaccine certificates a requirement of entry for nightclubs and some other large events.
Both the Lib Dems and Labour have already vowed to vote against the proposals when they come before MSPs at Holyrood.
Meanwhile, Cole-Hamilton insisted that the Scottish Government should be focusing on recruiting more staff to the Test and Protect contact tracing scheme, to help it cope in the wake of surging numbers of infections.
Health secretary Humza Yousaf recently announced contact tracers will only call those people who test positive for Covid-19 if they have been in a “high risk” setting, such as a hospital or have travelled abroad.
Others will instead be contacted by text message and asked to provide details of close contacts online.
Cole-Hamilton said, however, that research by his party had found that people were still waiting up to a week to be interviewed after testing positive.
He claimed: “The contact tracing system is broken. Scottish Liberal Democrats have been warning about the Test and Protect meltdown all summer long, and our research found positive cases waiting up to a week to be interviewed.
“Ministers should be recruiting more people, not cutting contact tracing down. Alongside vaccines, this is the single most important tool we have to stop people catching Covid.”
He insisted: “There needs to be an emergency recruitment drive, and ministers should spend their time fixing this instead of working on distractions like Covid ID cards. It needs fixed, now.”
Speaking to STV News at the weekend, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “Scottish Labour will not support Covid passports.
“That’s not an opposition for opposition’s sake – we have supported the government throughout this pandemic when we thought it was the right thing to do.
“It’s also not an ideological opposition to Covid passports.
“But for us it’s about what works and what’s going to make a meaningful difference, and I think this will just add a layer of bureaucracy.
“It risks increasing vaccine hesitancy, and instead I think we should be putting our focus on targeting our resources towards those low-uptake groups and trying to encourage people to get the vaccine as well as strengthening the Test and Protect system, which frankly hasn’t been up to scratch in recent weeks.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The claims about problems with the Test and Protect system are simply not true.
“Test and Protect continues to work well, with contact tracing teams successfully handling record numbers of daily cases during the current rise in cases, and it is an integral part of the frontline pandemic response.
“We make sure to get feedback from contact tracing teams and when case numbers are high, we adjust how and what we do. We are also supporting recruitment of new and more contact tracers in local areas and 100 new staff recently joined the National Contact Centre team.”