SCOTLAND’S Health Secretary has admitted that the public is “generally uncomfortable” with vaccine passports being rolled out – but has insisted the controversial policy will be “limited to some very high-risk settings”.
MSPs are due to discuss and vote on vaccine certifications being introduced in certain settings including nightclubs, football stadiums and large events on Thursday. The details of the proposed scheme are expected to be published by the Scottish Government earlier in the week.
The plans will cover nightclubs and adult entertainment venues, unseated indoor live events, with more than 500 people in the audience, unseated outdoor live events, with more than 4,000 people in the audience and any event, of any nature, which has more than 10,000 people in attendance.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf has stressed that there is no intention to extend the measure to wider hospitality settings such as pubs and restaurants – and has indicated the policy will hope improve vaccination rates in younger people are help protect health services as we go into the winter.
Speaking on the Sunday Show, Mr Yousaf tressed that the use of vaccine certification will be “limited to some very high-risk settings”, adding “it is not going to be there for public services, for essential services, for going to the shops”.
He said: “It is in these very limited spaces that are high-risk like nightclubs, for example – that we are saying we can mitigate some of that risk.”
The Health Secretary was asked why not extend the scheme to busy pubs and restaurants, seen as high-risk settings during the peak of the pandemic – but stressed that nightclubs pose a greater risk to the spread of the virus.
Business leaders have warned that hospitality settings could struggle to recover from the pandemic if vaccine passports are required.
Mr Yousaf said: “Nightclubs were closed even when hospitality was open. We only opened nightclubs or allowed them to open when we moved beyond level 0. “There are a number of reasons why nightclubs are seen as a more high-risk setting. Largely speaking, the demographic that goes to nightclubs are in that younger cohort. Vaccine uptake is lower amongst the younger age cohort.
“Nightclubs generally tend to be lesser ventilated spaces, but also the type of behaviours that take place within a nightclub – close contact as I might describe it – makes that particular setting high risk.”
He added: “It’s not to say that other settings don’t carry risk –they do. But we are trying to be very, very limited in the scope of the certification scheme because we know that people are generally uncomfortable with the certification scheme.
“Most people understand that if they went to a football match, a festival, a large-scale event or a nightclub, they would feel a lot more reassured knowing that other people around them are vaccinated.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has confirmed his party will not vote in favour of vaccine passports on Thursday.
Mr Sarwar said his party is not ideologically opposed to the plans, as the Scottish LibDems are, but claimed the plans are “more about trying to look in control of a virus that is clearly out of control”.
He added: “Research suggests that vaccine passports could actually be more likely to increase or entrench vaccine hesitancy among harder to reach groups.
“And there is a real risk that vaccine certification could lead to a false sense of security among people who can still transmit the virus.”
The co-leaders of the Scottish are expected to reverse their previous opposition to vaccine certification having been made Scottish Government ministers, with Patrick Harvie stressing that previous arguments against the plans may have changed.
The UK Government, which had previously indicated that vaccine passports would be rolled out for nightclubs in England, has stressed the plans will be rolled out by the end of the month south of the border.
Speaking on Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday, UK Vaccines Minister some Zahawi said: “We are looking at, by the end of September when everyone has had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated, for the large venues, venues that could end up causing a real spike in infections, where we need to use the certification process.
“If you look at what the FA have done, they’ve done so brilliantly in terms of checking vaccine status to reopen football.
“That is the sort of right thing to do and we are absolutely on track to continue to make sure that we do that.
“There’s a reason for that … the reason being is that, I, as does the Prime Minister, want to make sure the whole economy remains open.
“The worst thing we can do for those venues is to have a sort of open-shut-open-shut strategy because we see infection rates rise because of the close interaction of people, that’s how the virus spreads, if people are in close spaces in large numbers we see spikes appearing.
“The best thing to do then is to work with the industry to make sure that they can open safely and sustainably in the long term, and the best way to do that is to check vaccine status.”