Delay to enforcement of Scottish vaccine passport scheme

( BBC )

Scotland's new vaccine passport system will not be enforced until more than two weeks after it is introduced.

People going to nightclubs and many other large events will need proof they have had two doses of vaccine from 05:00 on Friday.

But First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there would now be a "grace period" until 18 October.

It means there will be no enforcement action against businesses who do not comply with the rules before that date.

Ms Sturgeon said the delay would allow businesses to "test, adapt and build confidence in the practical arrangements they will need to put in place to be compliant with the scheme".

Many businesses which will be affected by the controversial scheme have complained of a lack of detail from the government about how it will work in practice.

The Scottish Conservatives are pressing for a vote at Holyrood on Wednesday on whether it should should go ahead.

Leader Douglas Ross said the delay showed that the "botched" scheme was "still not ready" just days before it is due to be introduced, and called for it to be scrapped completely.

He added: "It is more of the same last minute, rushed, chaotic planning we have seen time and time again from this government".

Meanwhile the Night Time Industries Association in Scotland is planning a legal challenge through the courts in a bid to block the plans.

From Friday, people over the age of 18 will need to show that they have had both doses of the vaccine before they are allowed entry to certain venues and events. They are:

  • Nightclubs and adults entertainment venues;

  • Unseated indoor events with more than 500 people, even if some are seated;

  • Unseated outdoor events with more than 4,000 people;

  • Any event with more than 10,000 people in attendance.

Regulations are being drawn up which will place a legal obligation on venues to check the vaccine certificates of customers, with the system working mainly via mobile phone apps.

Clubs and smaller events will have to check everyone present, while organisers of larger events such as major football matches will be allowed to do spot checks of a "reasonable" number of customers.

On Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon confirmed that a "staged approach" would now be taken to actually enforcing the rules.

The first minister said the government still believed that a Covid certification scheme will help "mitigate the risk the virus poses to us over the winter", while also driving up vaccination rates.

However she added that the "pragmatic compromise" around enforcement "demonstrates that we are listening to business about the practical challenges they face, and that we are determined to work with them to overcome these."

Similar plans for England were dropped, but Wales is to introduce a system where people can provide either proof of vaccination or of a recent negative test result to enter certain venues.

Industry groups had raised concerns about the plans - and particularly the definition of a nightclub.

The law describes nightclubs as venues that are open between midnight and 05:00, serve alcohol, and which have a designated area for dancing and provide live or recorded music for this purpose.

The Night Time Industries Association said this definition could potentially catch "about 2,000 pubs and bars across Scotland in addition to the 100 nightclubs that are actual nightclubs".

Ms Sturgeon said further detailed guidance would be published later on Tuesday.

And she called on venues to take a "common sense" approach to when they will need to carry out checks.

'Covid ID cards'

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said he had tried to download his own vaccine certification to enter his party's UK conference, but found it was "incomplete".

He asked Ms Sturgeon for a "cast iron guarantee" that the new app would work for everyone, and called for greater focus on testing.

Ms Sturgeon said there were processes in place to rectify incomplete certificates, saying there would always be issues with a project on the scale of a nation-wide vaccination programme.

The Scottish Lib Dems called on the government to abandon plans for "Covid ID cards", with leader Alex Cole-Hamilton calling the scheme an "assault on the right to medical privacy".

MSPs will have a further vote on the matter on Wednesday after the Conservatives tabled a motion calling for the plans to be dropped.

All opposition parties voted against the scheme when MSPs previously considered it earlier in September, but the scheme was approved by MSPs from the SNP-Green partnership government.

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