The First Minister has announced that from 6 December it will be possible to access venues or events covered by the vaccine passport scheme by showing either proof of vaccination, or a recent negative lateral flow test result.
“Cabinet also considered the possible extension of the scheme to a much wider range of premises, including theatres, cinemas and hospitality venues,” Nicola Sturgeon said. “This was a very finely balanced decision, however at this stage we have decided not to extend the scope of the scheme.”
She explained: “We have taken account of the fact that – although our situation is precarious – cases are currently stable and indeed slightly declining, and concluded that at this stage, extension would not be proportionate.
“We were also mindful of the need to get across the message that it is important to be vaccinated and tested ahead of socialising anywhere – including in homes and shopping centres, for example – not just in those that might be covered by a certification scheme.”
For at least a further three week period, vaccine certification will be retained for the venues and events currently covered by it – late night licensed premises with a designated area for dancing, unseated indoor events of 500 people or more, unseated outdoor events of 4,000 people or more, and any event with 10,000 people or more.
“Given the current state of the pandemic, it would not be appropriate at this stage to remove this protection against transmission,” she stated.
“When we first launched the scheme, one of its primary objectives was to help drive up vaccination rates – this is still important, obviously – but actual and projected uptake rates mean we judge it possible now to include testing.”
Sturgeon added: “If our situation does deteriorate, it may well be that extending Covid certification is a more proportionate alternative to the re-introduction of more onerous restrictions on, for example, hospitality.”
The cabinet decided this morning to retain for a further period all the remaining legal protections, such as the requirement to wear face coverings and to keep in place the Covid Certification Scheme – alongside an “intensified” public information campaign in the coming weeks.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar welcomed the government’s u-turn on testing to enter indoor venues, adding: “Scottish Labour has called repeatedly for the use of lateral flow tests as part of the scheme to reduce transmission.
“But instead of listening to medical and public health experts and businesses – the First Minister ignored everyone and ploughed on with a passport scheme which doesn’t drive up vaccination rates.
“We have spent months pursuing the wrong priority.”
CBI Scotland director Tracy Black added: “Today’s decision strikes the right balance between managing the virus and protecting our economic recovery.
“However, we cannot afford to lose sight of the fact that Covid-19 remains a threat – that means redoubling our efforts on mass rapid testing, maximising world-leading vaccine uptake, and continuing to deliver Covid-secure workplaces to keep staff and customers safe, and the economy open.”
Sturgeon also sounded a warning to the unvaccinated: “If you’re meeting up with loved ones and you’re not as fully vaccinated as you could be, you’re putting them at unnecessary risk.
“To be blunt, you could be putting their lives in danger.”
She added: “You will be helping the NHS, and you will be maximising our chances of getting through this winter, without the need for further restrictions.”
As well as vaccination, the Scottish Government is asking everyone to take regular lateral flow tests. “We have been asking people to do this routinely twice a week,” Sturgeon stated.
Urging people to take extra care during the festive period, she said: “On any occasion that you are socialising with others – whether that is going out for drinks or dinner, visiting someone at home, or even going shopping somewhere that might be crowded – please take a test before you go.”
Sturgeon also reiterated policy on working from home where possible.
“I know this isn’t always easy for workers – nor always convenient for employers – but it makes a difference and will help us navigate our way through this difficult winter period.
“The average number of contacts people are having in the workplace has doubled in recent weeks, and as we head deeper into winter, this will create an increased risk of transmission.”
“Covid is continuing to force governments everywhere to take really difficult decisions,” Sturgeon said, after noting some of the European countries reentering lockdown in recent weeks.
“That is also true here in Scotland. While, thankfully, we are not at this stage seeing the rapid rise in cases that others are experiencing, the situation does remain precarious.”
She continued: “Last week, I noted that cases had increased gradually over the previous fortnight from just over 2,500 new cases a day, to just over 3,000.
“Since then, the situation appears to have stabilised again.”
In the last seven days, the average number of new cases being recorded each day has fallen from just over 3,000 to just under 3,000 – around 3%.
However, there continues to be a marked variation between different age groups.
In the over 60s, cases fell by 19% – likely reflecting progress of the booster programme – while in the under 60s, there was only a very slight decline. A small fall in cases in those aged under 25 was almost balanced out by a very small increase in the other age bands under 60.
At the start of her address, Sturgeon said that progress of the vaccination programme continues to be good, with 4.3 million people now having had a first dose and 3.9 million having had both doses.
In total, 88% of all those over 18 are now double vaccinated.
In addition, 77% of 16 and 17 year olds, and 58% of 12 to 15 year olds, have had a first dose.
In line with updated Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation advice, the Scottish Government is now preparing to offer second doses to 16 and 17 year olds.
“As of now, on first, second, third and booster doses, Scotland is still the most vaccinated part of the UK,” she stated. “I want to again record my thanks to everyone involved in organising and delivering the vaccine programme.”
Sturgeon also noted that the booster jag reduces the risk of symptomatic infection by more than 80%.
“So it isn’t just a small top up – it is every bit as important as the initial vaccinations.”
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