SNP's fixation with Covid passports (medical ID cards in all but name) is the wrong way to tackle pandemic – Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP

Last Friday, I was late in dropping my seven-year-old daughter at her school.

Wednesday, 17th November 2021, 4:55 am
Covid passports were not required for the COP26 summit, but daily negative tests for the virus were (Picture: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
Covid passports were not required for the COP26 summit, but daily negative tests for the virus were (Picture: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

As I saw her to the door, her teacher greeted us and dismissed my apologies by saying it was just nice to have another girl in as only one other had turned up.

Most of her classmates were either off with Covid or awaiting PCR results. All told, there was a grand total of six kids in her class when I left her.

Unsurprising then that she was pinged as a close contact herself (through my wife’s phone) on Saturday but mercifully tested negative. It feels like Covid is raging again and sure enough the SNP government are trying to look like they know what they're doing. I’m not sure they do.

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Last week the government dangled the possibility of another cancelled Christmas as it paved the way for further restrictions, like home working and the extension of vaccine passports to a much wider range of venues.

But when it comes to the passports – medical ID cards in all but name – I’m not convinced there is a whole lot of science at work here.

We’ve now had these in place for over a month and yet our viral transmission is either static or in some places going up. While in England, where there are no vaccine passports, transmission rates are improving considerably. Similarly, if ever there were an experiment to prove that there are more efficient alternatives to the vaccine passport scheme, it was COP26.

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That global event, in the heart of Scotland’s busiest city, attracted tens of thousands of delegates from all over the word and yet it was exempted from the Covid passport requirement.

What was made mandatory, however, was a lateral-flow test for every delegate, every day they were there. That test allowed a snapshot of every attendee’s viral status as they passed through security.

There was no storage or transfer of medical records, like the passports require, just an effective means of ascertaining who was sick and who was not. It meant that, at the time of writing, there has been no discernible outbreak caused by the summit.

We don’t need vaccine passports, they are an assault on medical privacy and Scotland is an outlier in Europe as the only country which will not accept an LFT or proof of recent past infection as an alternative for gaining entry to the venues that require them. Ninety per cent of such businesses expect their takings to be hit as a result of their imposition this Christmas.

Instead, if the government want to look like they’re on top of things, they should focus on the booster programme. My constituency inbox is filled with cases of people, frail and vulnerable residents who would usually receive their flu jab at home due to being housebound, some of whom are well into their 90s. They’re concerned that while many friends and relatives 20 years their junior have had both the blue envelope and the shot, they have heard nothing.

Vaccines are our best way out of this mess, a fixation with Covid ID cards is not. If we are going to ensure there are fewer school days lost to this pandemic, the SNP need to understand that.

Alex Cole-Hamilton is Liberal Democrat MSP for Edinburgh Western

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