There is no way to know whether the coronavirus vaccine passport scheme is working, says John Swinney
By Lucy Ashton
The deputy first minister and Covid recovery secretary said the Government does not have any evidence to show if the measure is reducing the spread of coronavirus and encouraging people to get vaccinated.
Swinney said it is “impossible to segment” data on coronavirus to determine whether it is working, but he believes it is “delivering a positive benefit to the suppression of the virus”.
Since the beginning of October, adults in Scotland have had to prove they are double vaccinated to enter nightclubs or attend large events, with legal enforcement in effect from October 18.
The Scottish Government said the certification scheme aims to increase take-up of vaccination, reduce the spread of the virus and allow supposedly high-risk venues to remain open.
Swinney, pictured right, told Holyrood’s Covid-19 Committee on Thursday that the proportion of 18 to 29-year olds who have received both vaccinations rose from 64% on October 1 to 68% by November 1, describing it as a “sizeable increase in the level of vaccination”.
He added: “We have cases at a too high level so we are trying to take measures which are proportionate to our objectives of enabling as much of the economy and our society to recover from Covid-19 but also, at the same time, to suppress the virus.
“Obviously there may well be impact on night-time industries as a consequence, but there could be an even greater impact of closure and that’s what we’re trying to avoid by the measures that we’re taking.”
Asked what the criteria is for the scheme to end, Swinney said: “We have to consider on a three-weekly basis whether it remains proportionate and that’s an issue that we retain under active review.”
He also warned the Scottish Government is considering imposing additional restrictions if the situation with the virus worsens.
Swinney told MSPs: “If the case numbers and numbers in hospital get worse, then we have to look at whether the baseline measures are accurate.
“So in the interest of absolute candour with the committee, there is the possibility that baseline measures could be relaxed, there is also the possibility that baseline measures could be expanded.
“Covid certification could potentially be extended to other sectors, or it could have no role to play within our measures. But that will be dependent on our judgment of proportionality.
“If we find ourselves in the next few weeks with a rising prevalence of the virus and greater pressure on the National Health Service than we are already experiencing – and the NHS is under absolutely colossal pressure – we might have to take stronger measures, which might apply greater mandatory enforcement.”
Swinney also suggested that people who are reluctant to be vaccinated should speak to people whose loved ones have been killed by the virus.
Reflecting on a meeting earlier in the week with families who are making representations about a forthcoming Covid inquiry, he said: “We should actually get people who are vaccine-hesitant to sit and have a conversation with the bereaved relatives who’ve lost loved ones in care homes, and let them listen to it.
“Because, I’m telling you, I sit through many conversations that are very tough in my role as a minister and that was a tough one on Tuesday, believe you me, so maybe folks should listen to that.”
Meanwhile, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has today responded with incredulity to the comments from the Deputy First Minister Swinney in which he conceded there is no way to know whether the coronavirus vaccine passport scheme is working.
Speaking at the Scottish Parliament’s Covid-19 committee, Mr Swinney claimed that the Government does not have any evidence to show if the measure is reducing the spread of coronavirus and encouraging people to get vaccinated
The comments came initiallyafter the BBC found that 42,000 people have reported errors in their vaccination records since July.
The information contradicts the Deputy First Minister who told Parliament last week that data “is not available” on the number of people who have reported difficulties in accessing the COVID status app, their QR code, paper copies or inaccuracies with the information contained in their vaccination record.
Mr Cole-Hamilton, pictured left, said: “The Deputy First Minister cannot point to a shred of evidence that his Covid ID scheme is keeping anyone safe.
“Government policy shouldn’t be based on blind faith. If they want to tell the public that there are fairies at the bottom of the garden, the public should be able to demand to see the proof.
“So far Covid ID cards have only proven to be an unworkable and expensive solution that is hurting businesses, while lulling customers who do jump through the government’s hoops into a false sense of security.
“Extraordinarily, the Deputy First Minister is now suggesting that these measures could be extended to further premises. He was completely oblivious to the fact 42,000 people have reported problems with the government’s system, causing many to be wrongly locked out.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats have been saying this for months, and I will say it again: vaccines and an effective contact tracing operation are the way to reduce the spread of the virus, not easy to forge wannabe ID cards.
“It’s time to ditch these ID cards and focus on what actually works”