Covid vaccine passports: Nicola Sturgeon and I don't agree on much, but on this she's right – Susan Dalgety
I will be blunt. I don’t often agree with Nicola Sturgeon.
I think a second independence referendum is a waste of time and energy, and will further divide our beautiful country. I don’t rate Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and think his talents would be better used outside government.
As for her high heels! Come on, First Minister, they are so pre-Covid. I couldn’t take my eyes off the four-inch, blood-red spikes she wore preparing for her conference speech.
They looked lethal. And incongruous. No-one wears heels any more. Our feet have spread since March 2020, as we ditched our formal shoes for the home comfort of trainers or slippers. Ms Sturgeon would have looked far more a woman of the people if she had worn a pair of Crocs instead of stilettos.
But she is right on vaccine passports, and I hope she sticks to her guns after England’s Health Secretary Sajid Javid decided against the measure earlier this week.
Our return to normality is not going to be linear. We won’t wake up one morning to a headline that declares: “Covid is over!” We are going to have to live with this virus forever and hope that it doesn’t mutate into a vaccine-resistant monster, but instead fades into another version of the common cold.
But while we wait for Sars-CoV-2 to lose its potency, we need to do everything we can to protect the population, and that includes health passports.
Critics say that demanding proof of vaccine to gain entry to busy events, such as concerts and football matches, is not practical. But it only takes a second to scan an app on a smartphone or a paper QR code – less time than it does to check entry tickets.
As for privacy concerns, when it comes to tackling Covid, we are all part of the public response. During a pandemic, our health status matters to strangers as much as it does to our family.
What about the unvaccinated? Should they become social pariahs, barred from their local nightclub? Not at all. There are many reasons why people have not signed up for the double-jab, and one of the most common is needle phobia. There are thousands of Scots who have hesitated about getting a shot through genuine fear. But there is no need to ban them from the next Edinburgh derby.
Scotland could learn from France’s experience of vaccine passports. Its ‘passe sanitaire’ (health pass) accepts a recent negative test as an alternative to proof of vaccine.
President Macron was heavily criticised when he introduced the French health pass in July, but it has worked. Vaccine rates have soared, cases are falling and venues, which include bars, restaurants and hospitals, quickly adapted to the change. “It saved tens of thousands of lives,” said Martin Blachier, a French public health consultant.
So I fully back Nicola Sturgeon on her plans for a Scottish health pass. Indeed, I would extend its reach to all public spaces, including my local GP practice. The choice is pretty clear. We get used to using a simple app – or spend another winter imprisoned inside our homes.