HEALTH MATTERS: Scots ‘may need to show negative test as well as vaccine passport

John Swinney says option will beconsidered to decide if passport rule should be expanded

By Lucy Ashton

There could be a requirement to show a negative Covid test as well as proof of vaccination before Scots are allowed to enter some entertainment places, the deputy first minister has revealed.

John Swinney said that this “theoretical option” was under consideration as part of a discussion on whether vaccine passports should be expanded.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is due to announce decisions on new restrictions at Holyrood next Tuesday.

The requirement for people to provide proof that they have had two doses of Covid vaccine could be extended to places such as theatres and cinemas, as well as some parts of the hospitality sector, she said.

As well as deciding if the scheme – which currently applies to nightclubs and some other large events – needs to be expanded, ministers will also consider whether people could be allowed to show a recent negative lateral flow test as an alternative to providing vaccination details.

Mr Swinney said this “would have to be a judgment that was considered as part of this process, the Government has not come to a conclusion on the question of adding on a testing element to the programme”.

But he told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme it was also possible that people could be required to show both a vaccination certificate and a negative Covid test for some “high-risk locations”.

The deputy first minister, also the Scottish Government’s Coronavirus Recovery Secretary, stated: “The other option is to add on testing on to vaccination as well, so vaccine certificate and testing.

“That is a theoretical option.”

He added: “What we’ve got to make sure is we’re taking the right and proportionate decisions, that is the test the Government has got to apply.

“We want to look at the most up-to-date information on the state of the pandemic and make decisions about what lies ahead for us in what we know is going to be a very challenging winter, and take appropriate and proportionate decisions.”

Business leaders however have spoken out about the prospect of extending the vaccination certification scheme.

Any changes would come from December 6, when bars and restaurants would normally expect to be enjoying the busy festive period.

Swinney however said that changes to vaccine certification were being considered in a bid to allow “the business community and members of the public to be able to enjoy life as normally as we possibly can do”.

With Covid cases having increased again recently, he added: “The alternative is obviously much wider restrictions which the Government wants to avoid if we can.”

His  said he hoped Scots would be able to enjoy a “normal Christmas”, stressing however this could only happen if “people are careful and as long as we continue to sustain the adherence to the baseline measures we have in place”.

Mr Swinney added:  “The warning the Government has had to make is that this is an unpredictable pandemic, and we have to look at the sequence of events, the acute threat we still face from the pandemic and make sure that we have in place the appropriate measures to protect the public to enable as much of life to go on as normal.

“That’s the strategic focus of the Government, we are trying to control the pandemic to the greatest extent possible to enable people to enjoy life as normally as possible.”

Commenting on John Swinney’s remarks that the government could introduce both Covid IDs and proof of a negative lateral flow test (LFT) as a requirement to access to venues, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said:  “Covid IDs are ​illiberal, unworkable and unnecessary. COP26 clearly showed that lateral flow test results can be far more effective in hunting down the virus and keeping people safe.

“LFTs provide an on the day snapshot of your covid status, helping ascertain who is sick and who is well, and they remove the need to share your medical history with someone who is not your clinician.  The SNP government should abandon vaccine certification entirely and build a scheme around lateral flow testing.”

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