No extension to Scottish coronavirus vaccine passport scheme

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon gave an update to MSPs at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

The Scottish Government has decided against expanding the controversial vaccine passport scheme for now.

Scots will now also be able to access venues and events covered by the scheme by either showing proof of vaccination or a recent negative lateral flow test result.

Nicola Sturgeon gave an update on the Covid-19 restrictions in a statement to MSPs at Holyrood on Tuesday.

The new lateral flow test rule will come into force on December 6.

There will be no further changes to remaining Covid-19 regulations, such as mask-wearing and home working.

Vaccine passports came into effect at the beginning of October, however an 18-day grace period was announced following backlash from affected industries and problems with the new app.

Sturgeon said the scheme will remain in place for at least the next three weeks.

Currently, proof of full vaccination is required to enter nightclubs and large events as part of the Scottish Government’s efforts to stem the spread of the deadly virus and increase vaccine take-up.

Scots must show proof they have had both vaccine doses, either with a paper copy of the certificate or a QR code on the app.

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

However, the First Minister said the extension would “not be proportionate”, given its impact on businesses.

She said: “This was a very finely balanced decision.

“However, I can confirm that at this stage we have decided not to extend the scope of the scheme.

“We have taken account of the fact that – although our situation is precarious – cases are currently stable and indeed slightly declining. And we have considered the inevitable impact vaccine certification has on the operation of businesses, and concluded that, at this stage, extension would not be proportionate.

“We were also mindful of the need over the coming weeks of getting across the message that it is important to be vaccinated and tested ahead of socialising in any setting – including in homes and shopping centres, for example – not just in those that might be covered by a certification scheme.”

She added: “It is important to stress, however, that we must keep it – as we do all possible protections – under review.”

Opposition parties have previously taken aim at the handling of the scheme.

Douglass Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said there was “no evidence to suggest vaccine passports do anything to stop the spread of Covid-19”.

Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Alex Cole-Hamilton also called for them to be abolished.

He said the SNP and Greens had not provided any factual evidence to show the current scheme is keeping Scotland safer, adding “no wonder it has been attacked by everyone from health experts to civil liberties groups”.

Following the FM’s statement, Cole-Hamilton said: “The Scottish Human Rights Commission has been asking for the scientific evidence for this scheme for two months. We finally got a paper on Friday and it was mince.

“Lateral flow tests are superior to vaccine passports because they actually show who is sick and who is well.

“The government has finally accepted that today, but only after causing panic amongst businesses.

“Is it just embarrassment that is preventing the SNP-Green government from admitting that they were wrong to begin with, abolishing vaccine passports and building a scheme around testing?”

Dr Sandesh Gulhane, the Scottish Conservatives’ shadow cabinet secretary for health and social care, added: “It is a relief that the vaccine passport scheme is not being extended. But the uncertainty that this government has left hanging over businesses for the past two weeks has been unnecessary and unacceptable.  

“The Scottish Government released their so-called ‘evidence’ paper on Friday, yet in almost 70 pages were unable to offer proof of the scheme’s effectiveness. 

“It seems more and more like they’re making it up as they go along. 

“Businesses are scunnered. Making them wait even longer to hear if they will face extra costs and burdens in the run-up to Christmas is a slap in the face.

“On Friday, the vaccine passport app south of the border was updated to register booster jags.

“The SNP government insisted on going with their own app at an estimated cost of £4.5m – yet, today, Nicola Sturgeon failed to provide an update as to when the Scottish app will be able to record booster doses.

“It is unacceptable that so many weeks after it was first launched, the SNP’s vaccine passport app is still not fit for purpose.”

The update comes as a further 17 deaths and 2527 new cases of coronavirus were recorded in Scotland overnight.

A total of 743 people were in hospital on Monday with recently confirmed Covid-19. Out of those, 60 patients were in intensive care.

The lab-confirmed death toll currently stands at 9495, however figures including suspected Covid-19 deaths recorded by National Records of Scotland suggest the most up-to-date total is now at least 11,933.

It was also confirmed that 4,340,162 Scots have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, 3,940,314 their second, and 1,469,423 a third dose or booster.

The FM said the situation remains “precarious”, with the R number “hovering at or slightly above one”.

She urged Scots to take up the offer of a vaccine and get tested ahead of meeting family and friends this Christmas.

Sturgeon said: “If you are meeting up with loved ones and you are not as fully vaccinated as you could be, you are putting them at unnecessary risk.

“To be blunt, you could be putting their lives in danger.

“The most precious gift we can give anyone this Christmas is to be vaccinated – and also tested, which I’ll say more about shortly – before we meet, hug or spend time with them.

“So, if you haven’t had a first or second dose yet, it’s not too late – please do so now.”

The FM asked for “extra effort” during the festive period to get tested more regularly.

She said: “On any occasion that you are socialising with others – whether that is going out for drinks or dinner, visiting someone at home, or even going shopping somewhere that might be crowded – please take a test before you go.

“And if it is positive, do not go. Instead get a PCR test and self-isolate while you wait for the result.

“This way, you are minimising the risk of inadvertently passing the virus on even if you don’t have symptoms.”

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