Scotland ‘faced with choice’ between vaccine passport extension or winter restrictions
The Scottish Government is “faced with a choice” between reintroducing some coronavirus restrictions or extending the vaccine passports to more venues, an evidence paper on the scheme has concluded.
However, the document also said there was “incomplete information about the longer term effects on the pandemic, wider society, and the economy”.
It states vaccine uptake has “slightly increased” since vaccine passports were announced in September but it was “not possible to directly attribute rises to the introduction of certification”. It added it was “likely” to have led to a rise in vaccination among young people.
But it does not offer information on the impact of the scheme on transmission of Covid-19.
Instead, it points to SAGE subgroups stating a variety of approaches taken together (face masks, vaccination, passports and other measures) could have a “potential impact” on transmission.
Regarding the expansion of the passport scheme, the paper concludes: “To suppress the virus further we are now faced with a choice. This is to limit social contacts and the risk of infection by limiting social contacts by closing venues, limiting group sizes and advising people not to meet other. Alternatively, we can enable people to meet up in a lower risk way by using certification to reduce the risk that an infectious person will be present in a higher risk setting.”
However, the document also warned the effectiveness of the scheme will also depend on the successful rollout of booster jabs, given the vaccine becomes less effective with time.
Introduced last month, the certification scheme means venues welcoming large crowds are required to check the vaccination status of customers before entry.
The rules currently apply to nightclubs and sexual entertainment venues, unseated indoor events with audiences of over 500, unseated outdoor events with audiences over 4,000 and all events with an audience of over 10,000.
But more recently the First Minister said other premises could be included from next month.
Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs "indoor cinemas, theatres, and some other licensed and hospitality premises" would be "the kinds of settings that might be in scope" for any extension.
A joint statement from trade bodies in the hospitability industry warned about the impact this would have on their ability to trade over winter.
It said: “Covid certification has a hugely negative impact on businesses already caught by the policy and any extension will have a devastating impact on the wider hospitality sector. Three quarters [of respondents to a trade survey] say they would not survive without further economic support from government, should the policy be extended.”