Get ready for vaccine passports from 1 October
Entry to many entertainment venues will require proof being vaccinated
The Scottish government has outlined how the proposed vaccine passport scheme will operate from 1 October amid continuing concern among businesses over the cost and processes involved.
MSPs backed the proposals in parliament by 68 votes to 55. The Conservatives opposed the measures, despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson planning similar rules in England.
It will mean nightclubs and large events such as football matches across Scotland will only allow entry to those who can show they have had two doses of a Covid vaccine.
The scheme is seen as a way of allowing events to go ahead while giving some assurance to those attending.
It will also help to avoid re-imposing restrictions and encourage younger people to get vaccinated.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “We must do all we can to stem the rise in cases and vaccine certification will form part of a range measures which can help us to do this.
“It will only be used in certain higher risk settings and we hope this will allow businesses to remain open and prevent any further restrictions as we head into autumn and winter.
“We do not want to re-impose any of the restrictions that have been in place for much of this year as we all know how much harm they have caused to businesses, to education and to people’s general well-being. But we must stem the rise in cases.
“We want to ensure that as many people get vaccinated as possible and particularly to increase uptake in the younger age cohort, so anything that helps to incentivise that is helpful.”
Business groups remain anxious about the added cost and ability to police the scheme.
Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce, said: “Whilst the parliament has voted in favour of vaccine certifications, there is no doubt that this step will act as an economic deterrent.
“These new requirements will directly impact on consumer confidence and risks creating further financial damage to those sectors who have already been hardest hit by COVID-19.
Liz Cameron: ‘legitimate concerns’ (pic: Terry Murden)
“The events, night-time economy and hospitality sectors have had an incredibly tough 18 months and have expressed legitimate concerns over the impact vaccine certifications will have on trading.
“At the same time, these beleaguered businesses face the prospect of further costs to implement the scheme, including scanning equipment and additional staff to manage entry.
“In the meantime, many businesses are still desperately seeking the detail they need around exemptions, enforcement, penalties or even the definition of the venues covered which is deeply concerning given the pace of certification rollout.
“Huge questions also remain over how long these measures will remain in place and what level cases would need to fall to for these requirements to be removed. All of these questions need addressed urgently.”
Colin Wilkinson, managing director of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, said: “The Government has pushed these proposals through without any meaningful consultation with the industry.
“The Scottish Government issued a paper on the scheme only this morning, just a few hours ahead of the vote, yet we remain unaware of how it will be implemented.
“Where is the evidence that this action is needed and is proportionate, a word often used by the Deputy First Minister in the debate this afternoon? There has been no assessment of the costs to businesses, nor the impact on the sector.”
How will it work?
People over the age of 18 will need to show they have had both doses of the vaccine before they are allowed entry to certain venues and events. They are:
- nightclubs and adult entertainment venues
- unseated indoor events with more than 500 people in the audience
- unseated outdoor events with more than 4,000 people
- any event with more than 10,000 people in attendance
Anyone who has good reasons for not getting fully vaccinated – including children and people with particular medical conditions – would be exempt, as would employees working at the venues.
The government has said the hospitality industry as a whole would not be included in the scheme, though there is has been confusion over what constitutes a nightclub.
The government acknowledges the problem and today said “there is now a need to define nightclubs and other analogous venues, as behaviours that were previously prohibited are now allowed in wider parts of hospitality (for example, after midnight alcohol, loud music, dancing, and close contact for long periods).
“We are working with stakeholders to finalise a definition that will ensure the intended public health benefit, but not result in market distortion or displacement.”
It has already said there would be no need for a vaccine passport to access public services or settings where people have no choice over attendance, such as shops, public transport, education and medical services.
The vaccine passport would be similar to the digital Covid certificate being used across Europe.
People who have had two vaccines in Scotland can already download or get a paper copy of a certificate with a QR code.
It is planned that people will be able to access an NHS Scotland Covid Status App from 30 September, which will show a QR code for each vaccination.
Those who cannot use the app will be able to request what the government describes as “a secure, un-editable” paper record. It will have enhanced security features such as thermodynamic ink to prevent forgery, and will also have a QR code.
A QR code verifier app will be made available to venues from 13 September, enabling staff to check a customer’s QR code.
Those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons will be able to show a document confirming that they are exempt. Under-18s are also exempt from the scheme, and may need to show proof of age.
The government said it was working to ensure that the system would work for people across the UK, while also considering how to verify the vaccine status of non-UK residents.
Businesses will be able to use an app free of charge to scan the codes used on all certificates, although they will require a hardware device, such as a mobile phone, to verify the certificates.
The government is proposing that the regulations will be drafted to impose a legal obligation on the person responsible for operating the business or venue to ‘take all reasonable measures’ to restrict entry only to those fully vaccinated (unless exempt).
“We are also considering whether there is a need for offences with regard to the misuse of certificates by individuals.”