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Changes delayed

Vaccine passports may be extended on 6 December

Nicola Sturgeon: further consultation

Scotland’s vaccine passport scheme could be extended to cinemas, theatres and more licensed hospitality venues from 6 December, though a final decision has been delayed for a further week.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was expected to confirm changes today but instead said there would be further consultation with businesses.

Conservative leader Douglas Ross claimed that delaying a decision created more uncertainty for hospitality businesses and left them with little time to prepare for any changes at the busiest time of the year.

Ms Sturgeon said governments around the world were “grappling” with the Covid crisis and she hoped that further restrictions being introduced in other countries would not be necessary in order to get through the winter.

The passport scheme currently only applies to nightclubs and major events such a concerts and football matches.

She told MPs: “We have not taken a decision to extend the reach of the scheme.”

She advised employers to continue allowing staff to work from home and to introduce ventilation measures which is supported by government grants.

Defending the current crackdown and potential for new measures, she said: “I am acutely aware that many businesses want us to remove mitigations, including certification, not extend or tighten them.

“I understand that, but all of our decisions must be motivated by a desire to keep people safe but also get through what will be a challenging winter without having to re-introduce further restrictions on trade.

“We want, if possible, businesses to stay fully open over Christmas and through the winter while also keeping Covid under control.

“If an expansion of Covid certification can help us do that it would be irresponsible not to consider it.”

Ms Sturgeon urged everyone to get vaccinated for their own sake and the health of others, stating: “Choosing without good reason not to get vaccinated is deeply irresponsible. Getting vaccinated is a civic duty.”

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The First Minister’s statement followed concerns from business groups about the impact of further restrictions and calls from health experts of the need to introduce them.

Devi Sridhar, chairman of global public health at Edinburgh University, said it may be necessary to ban the unvaccinated from pubs and restaurants. The scheme is currently limited to nightclubs, sports stadiums and other big gatherings.

Ms Sridhar’s advice is aimed at avoiding tougher restrictions later in the winter, and she has highlighted measures being taken elsewhere, in particular Austria which has ordered the unvaccinated to stay at home for all but visits to shops, essential work and for medical treatment.

Business groups in Scotland fear that a tightening of restrictions is all but inevitable but have warned of “dire consequences” for the economy if there is not adequate financial support in place.

A survey of Scottish hospitality businesses found that four out of five (83.6%) are trading significantly below pre-pandemic levels and with inflation, debt and other costs rising, the sector is facing a difficult winter ahead.

Three quarters (76.2%) said they would not survive without further economic support from Government, should the vaccine certification policy be extended.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of firms polled by the Scottish Chambers of Commerce network are opposed to more restrictions, with 45% already feeling that the measures currently in place are no longer justified.

The government announced today that a £25 million fund to improve ventilation in business premises and reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission will open for applications next week.

Small and medium-sized businesses such as restaurants, bars and gyms will be able to claim back costs of up to £2,500 to undertake work such as the installation of carbon dioxide monitors and remedial improvement work to windows and vents.

Businesses will be able to fill in a self-assessment form to receive advice on improving their current ventilation systems and identify if they are eligible for financial support from their local authority.

Effective ventilation is a key public health measure to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading and is of increasing importance during autumn and winter as people spend more time indoors.

Ms Sturgeon said: “In September we announced the establishment of a £25 million fund to help businesses improve ventilation. This fund opens for applications next week. More information on eligibility has now been published on the Find Business Support website.

“All of these basic mitigation measures are really important at this stage but some of them are also valuable long-term investments.

“For example, better ventilation won’t just reduce the spread of Covid – it will also help reduce the spread of other airborne viruses, now and in the future.”



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