Vaccine passport talks amid trial return of crowds
Wembley will host three trial matches
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed that the vaccine passport idea is under consideration for Scotland, but warned unanswered questions remain.
Crowds are to be allowed at nine trial events in England in order to test new measures for controlling the spread of coronavirus.
Talks are under way in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland about also applying the scheme, raising hopes that spectators will be allowed to attend the Euro 2020 matches in Glasgow.
In an interview with Bauer Radio, Ms Sturgeon said: “Not everybody can be vaccinated because of some health reasons, younger people at the moment are not currently in the vaccine programme – the vaccines are not currently authorised for younger people yet.
“We’ve got to be clear about the basis on which we are doing this and be able to answer some of those questions. I think that’s work that needs to be done properly and we are keen that we play our full part in doing it.”
“As all of us desperately want to get back to normal, we should absolutely not close our minds to anything that might have a part to play.”
Preparations for trials in England are well advanced. The Football League Cup final between Tottenham and Manchester City on 25 April will be watched by a crowd of 8,000. A proportion of tickets will be made available to both clubs with the rest given to local residents in Brent and NHS staff.
Rick Parry, chair of the English Football League (EFL), said it was an “important milestone”.
On 18 April, the FA Cup semi-final between Leicester City and Southampton will have 4,000 in attendance while the final on 15 May will welcome 21,000 spectators.
The snooker World Championship in Sheffield will also provide “key scientific data and research” into how events can safely admit customers in line with the roadmap out of lockdown.
A next step will consider how night clubs and other close contact venues might reopen. An audience attending a comedy night in Liverpool on 16 April will be tested for Covid before and after the show.
Businesses which can reopen in the coming weeks, including pubs, restaurants and non-essential retail will not have to use the system for now.
Keir Starmer: passports are ‘un-British’
Boris Johnson is reported to have scrapped plans to force consumers to show vaccine passports to get into pubs and restaurants in the face of huge political opposition, despite polls showing the public wants passports used in such places.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer described passports “Un-British” and suggested Labour could vote against them.
In a cross-party letter on Friday 72 MPs had branded the idea “divisive and discriminatory”.
On Friday, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross called on SNP Ministers to allow fans into Hampden for the Euro 2020 tournament this summer.
Glasgow is one of 12 host cities but football’s governing body UEFA may move the four fixtures elsewhere if SNP Ministers rule that the stadium stays empty.
UEFA has set a deadline of 7 April for host cities to submit their plans.
Mr Ross, who is also an assistant referee, said: “I believe that the Tartan Army must be allowed into Hampden for the Euros. The time for SNP dithering is over.
“Around 2.5 million Scots have been vaccinated thanks to our amazing NHS and the UK’s world-beating vaccination programme.
“All our sacrifices have helped to suppress the virus and it would be unfortunate if the Scottish Government made a wrong call on this.
“I have always said that public health is paramount but there is the risk of being too cautious here. This is a time for optimism.”
Foreign holidays may be back
Meanwhile, Downing Street has confirmed countries will be in a risk-based “traffic light” system when foreign holidays resume, probably from 17 May.
Countries will be assessed according to their vaccination programmes, infection rates and prevalence of known variants and ability to identify them.
Portugal may be back on holiday lists (pic: Terry Murden)
While only a handful of European destinations are expected to be given ‘green’ status, including Portugal, it should open the way to trips to countries including the US, Barbados, Maldives, Gibraltar, the United Arab Emirates, Malta and Israel.
With the potential for circumstances to change, the first list of ‘green’ countries will not be announced until next month.
However, even travel to and from approved countries will require at least three Covid tests for each holidaymaker – one before departure back to Britain and two after returning – leaving families facing extra bills potentially running into hundreds of pounds.