The government is “considering” measures, including the requirement for vaccine passports for indoor places such as pubs and restaurants, Deputy Prime Minister John Swinney told MSPs in a Covid-19 update on Tuesday.
Deputy Prime Minister John Swinney during a debate on vaccine certification at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh. Photo date: Thursday, September 9, 2021.
But the Scottish Chambers of Commerce have said it will be a ‘massive setback’ and have ‘damaging implications’ for businesses.
The Scottish Hospitality Group said the announcement ahead of any consultation with businesses and the hospitality industry showed a lack of planning and would lead to uncertainty and panic.
Both groups have asked the Scottish government for evidence supporting the benefit of these potential measures.
Stricter restrictions may be needed to combat a “very rapid rise” in Covid levels in the coming weeks, Mr Swinney told MSPs in a Covid-19 update on Tuesday.
While no changes have yet been made, he pointed to a review scheduled for next week and said the Scottish government would engage with businesses before that date.
Along with a broader vaccination passport program, which may include negative lateral flow tests as well as proof of vaccination, the government is considering tightening the rules for wearing face covers and other ventilation requirements. and working from home.
Stricter restrictions now would avoid the need for harsh lockdowns of the kind seen last year, Mr Swinney said.
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“If the previous pattern characterized by waves of infection is repeated, there is a risk that the spread of the virus will increase again very quickly over the next few weeks, perhaps during the Christmas period,” he said. declared.
“From the current high level of infection in the community and the intense pressure the NHS is already under, some scenarios of what could happen next are of great concern.
“We must avoid the most dangerous of these scenarios. “
Mr Swinney described specific reasons for expecting an increase in the number of cases in the coming weeks, including more time spent indoors as the weather deteriorates, with COP26 and Scots visiting to their families during the Christmas period.
But in response to the Deputy Prime Minister’s comments, Scottish Chambers of Commerce said an increase in the vaccine passport would hurt businesses.
Managing Director Dr Liz Cameron said: ‘The Deputy Prime Minister is correct that Scotland is at a pivotal point in our recovery from Covid-19 and that is why it is essential that we do not a massive step backwards by introducing new economic disincentives, improved basic measures and increased reliance on vaccine certification.
‘Given the damaging implications that strengthening existing basic safeguards will have on Scottish businesses, the Scottish government urgently needs to sit down to business to demonstrate evidence of increased restrictions and detail support financial support that they will make available to businesses if they choose to do so.
Ms Cameron said retail and hospitality businesses, which rely on agent footfall, would be “deeply concerned” to hear suggestions for increased homework.
“It is clear that decisions regarding the return of offices should be left to companies, in discussion with their employees, and that offices should not be re-designated as a key transmission point when many companies have invested millions. to ensure safe workplaces for staff, customers and clients, ”she said.
The Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) has accused the Scottish government of poor planning. SHG spokesman Stephen Montgomery said Mr Swinney’s announcement would have plunged the venues into “panic”.
“I can see why [the Scottish Government] move, but again there is no plan, ”he said.
“It’s always been execution first and then everyone has to panic. Once this has been heard people will have watched [Mr Swinney’s statement] today there will be quite a panic.
Mr. Montgomery asked for evidence to support the effectiveness of the vaccine passport program.
He said it would need to be adapted as other venues don’t have the same trained door staff as nightclubs.
“I don’t see how they can extend this to other areas of the hospitality industry when there is currently no evidence to show that the situation is actually helping in its current form,” he said.
“And for now, we need the Security Industry Authority (SIA) gate staff to deny entry. How is that going to look like in your local greasy spoon cafe?
“You have door staff wearing the SIA badge standing at your door to verify Covid certifications… policy should change to implement that.
“Here again we have a case where although the Deputy Prime Minister is trying to educate the public, we have not been consulted at all on this matter.
“It would have been nice to have somehow been able to go around a table and discuss the implications of what would happen if it was deployed further before it was actually presented. to the public.
“All it does now is other businesses and the hospitality industry are wondering where this is going to go. “
Opposition politicians have also criticized a potential expansion of vaccine passports.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross asked: ‘How can the government move these plans forward when it knows the damage the program is already causing to Scottish businesses and the impact it is having on jobs? people ?
Daniel Johnson of Labor raised the “challenges” for cafe staff by checking Covid certification at the door and also asked for further evidence.
The Scottish Liberal Democrats have warned that Mr Swinney’s statement was the start of a “constant infiltration” of vaccine passports into other aspects of people’s lives.