Covid in Scotland: Opposition increasing towards vaccine passports

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Scottish Labour's Anas Sarwar and Health Secretary Humza Yousaf both appeared on BBC Scotland's The Sunday Show

Scottish Labour is refusing to support the Scottish government's plans to introduce vaccine passports.

A debate on the proposals is due to take place at Holyrood on Thursday, but opposition is building to the controversial scheme.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar claims the Scottish government is trying to look like it is in control of the virus.

The first minister says it is the least restrictive way of keeping people safe.

If MSPs agree on the vaccine passport system, nightclubs and many large events will only be able to allow entry to people who can show they have had two Covid jabs.

From Friday, Scots have been able to download a QR code of proof of vaccination and a mobile app is planned for later this month.

The scheme is seen as a way of allowing events to go ahead despite surging cases of Covid-19.

However, the hospitality industry and football clubs have questioned the logistics of such a scheme.

'Significant number of questions'

Scottish Professional Football League (SPFL) chief executive Neil Doncaster has said there are a "significant number of questions and real concern" for clubs.

And Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said businesses needed urgent clarity on where vaccine certifications could be required, fearing a "deterrent" such as a vaccine certificate could prove damaging to business and consumer confidence.

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Vaccine certification schemes have been introduced in several countries

Mr Sarwar told BBC Scotland's Sunday Show that Labour would vote against the plan.

He said: "This is not opposition for opposition's sake. Neither is this an ideological opposition to the principle of vaccine passports. This is about what works, and what's going to make a meaningful difference.

"We all agree the vaccine is working in helping to reduce hospitalisations and reduce deaths but there is a fear that using vaccine passports might actually entrench vaccine hesitancy rather than encourage uptake."

'Out of control'

He added that it was important to recognise that those who had had the vaccine could still get the virus and spread it and that he felt a more important test should be whether someone had tested negative going into a large-scale event, rather than whether they had had a vaccination.

He said: "We have a government that has machinery and tools in this pandemic. One tool is the vaccine and we should be ramping up vaccine rollout . Another tool is Test and Protect but Test and Protect is not working. Let's sort the systems that we have instead of creating a new system.

"My fear is this is an attempt to look in control of a virus that is clearly out of control."

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Health Secretary Humza Yousaf thinks vaccine certification will encourage young people to take the offer of Covid jabs

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf admitted that one of the main reasons for giving the vaccine passport scheme the green light was to incentivise younger people to get vaccinated.

"We know the uptake is lower amongst the younger age cohorts and therefore anything that helps to incentivise that is helpful," he said.

"I have said in the past I am sceptical about Covid passports so it is not a decision we have taken lightly, but bearing in mind the number of cases we have been seeing, we want to increase that vaccine uptake in the younger age cohort.

"Looking ahead to the pressures we are probably going to face in the autumn and well into the winter, doing everything we possibly can, plus a Covid certification scheme could hopefully help us from a public health perspective but also to increase vaccination rates."

'Right thing to do'

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that one in 75 people were believed to have had Covid-19 in Scotland last week, a sharp rise from one in 140 the previous week.

Latest estimates for the proportion of 18 to 29-year-olds who are unvaccinated stand at 25.6% in Scotland.

On Sunday, UK government vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said checking people's Covid-19 vaccine status was the "right thing to do" to ensure the whole economy remained open.

Downing Street confirmed that the government intended to press on with plans to introduce vaccine passports for nightclubs in England this month.

In Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford last month said there were "no plans" to introduce mandatory vaccination certificates for venues due to "ethical and equality considerations".

And Stormont ministers have yet to reach an official position on using vaccine access passports within Northern Ireland.