Covid Scotland: One in five people were turned away from late night venues last weekend due to invalid vaccine passports
Vaccine passports could be extended to more venues if Covid cases continue to rise, including some workplaces, MSPs have heard.
Speaking to the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 recovery committee on Thursday, deputy first minister John Swinney said vaccine passports, which apply to large events and late night venues, would be in place until November 16, when ministers would review whether they would remain depending on Covid case numbers.
However, he described Wednesday’s rise in cases as “unsettling to ministers” and warned of possible further increases as a result of the COP26 climate summit.
Mr Swinney said the scheme could be extended to other sectors, including workplaces, where he said that employers “have to make that judgement”.
At the same meeting, public health expert Professor Jason Leitch revealed up to 20 per cent of people were turned away from late night venues in Scotland at the weekend due to not having a valid vaccine passport.
Mr Swinney pointed to more stringent measures in Wales, where passports will soon have to be shown to enter venues such as cinemas – and where leaders have warned the hospitality industry to prepare for the possibility of vaccine certification there too.
He said: “There is the possibility that baseline measures could be relaxed. There is also the possibility that baseline measures could be expanded and Covid certification could potentially be extended to other sectors, or it could have no role to play within our measures, but that will be dependent on our judgement of proportionality, which is the legal duty we have to fulfil.”
Prof Leitch said there could be stronger enforcement brought in to ensure that people wear face coverings in public indoor spaces.
He said: “If we find out in the next few weeks with our rising prevalence of the virus and greater pressure on the National Health Service than we are already experiencing – the national health services under absolutely colossal pressure just now – we might have to take stronger measures, which may apply greater mandatory force.”
Prof Leitch described vaccine certification as a useful tool “going forward” in the pandemic. He said there was an argument the mandatory vaccination of care home workers should be considered in the future.
Prof Leitch added: “Covid certification is now a globally accepted mainstream way of managing the pandemic. What our ministers choose to put in Covid certification is a matter for them.
"But in general Covid certification is accepted as something that is useful at this stage in the pandemic going forward. Airlines have done it. party conferences have done it. Countries have done it. Independent businesses, cinema owners have done it.
"And I hear the night-time industry over the weekend saying ‘we turned away 10 to 20 per cent of people’. That sounds to me like Covid certification is working.”
Prof Leitch said he had attended the Scotland rugby game at Murrayfield on Saturday.
The national clinical director said: “My vaccine certification was checked as I entered. That crowd was safer because of vaccine certification, so I think it works.
"Inside that basket of tools, globally it has become one of ways to manage in a vaccine world, how to get out of this pandemic.”
Conservative MSP Graham Simpson said to Prof Leitch he had been told that people attending the rugby at the weekend “were not being checked properly”, with stewards telling sports fans that the “app is down” and waving them in.
He said: “I've been to three football matches since this scheme came into effect. The checks, such as they, are cursory – you flash a bit of paper at the steward, it's not it's not looked at in any great detail.
"You could be showing them anything and you’re waved through, but actually I would suggest that for any club in Scotland to do anything different would cause absolute chaos.”
Mr Swinney said: “I understand the concerns that Mr Simpson has, but you can't have it both ways.
"On the one hand, Mr Simpson and his colleagues will suggest to me that the application of the scheme has been so effective it is disrupting the night-time economy. And then we get an argument today which is saying this scheme is not being effective at all. And we can't have it both ways.”
"The scheme is working well. It's working well as envisaged in all of the circumstances that it was intended for and the government believes it to be a proportionate intervention.”