The Scottish Government has published its proposals for a mandatory domestic Covid vaccination certification scheme in advance of the Parliamentary debate and vote later today.
The scheme will require a person seeking entry to certain venues and settings to show that they have been fully vaccinated. Initially, it will not permit a negative test result to be offered as an alternative to evidence of vaccination, but this will be kept under review.
Despite potential delays with the technology roll-out, the government stated that the scheme should be ready to go live on 1 October, at the same time as the permanent digital solution for vaccination certification.
Those exempt include under 18s, participants in vaccine trials, people unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons and employees at venues within scope of the scheme.
The scheme will apply only in the following ‘higher risk’ settings:
- nightclubs and analogous venues;
- sexual entertainment venues;
- live events: indoors unseated 500+ in the audience;
- live events: outdoors unseated 4,000+ in the audience;
- all events: 10,000+ in the audience.
For live events, ‘unseated’ includes events where some audience members are seated and some standing. For multi-day events or events with different time slots – it is the number of people attending on any day or time slot. this does not include staff, contractors, performers or volunteers involved in the delivery of the event.
The scheme will be kept under regular review, with three weekly Parliamentary reviews.
The Scottish Government also noted that it is working with stakeholders to finalise a definition of nightclubs that will ensure the intended public health benefit, but not result in market distortion or displacement.
“We have been clear that certification will not be a requirement for public services or other settings that people have no option but to attend, such as retail,” the paper read. “There will also be exceptions for premises being used for certain purposes, including worship, protest and certain business events that individuals are required to attend for work purposes.”
From 30 September people will be able to access the NHS Scotland Covid Status App, which will include a person’s vaccination record in line with the requirements for international travel. This shows a QR code for each vaccination.
Those unable to use the app will be able to request a secure un-editable paper record of vaccination, with security features such as thermodynamic ink to prevent forgery. This will also have a QR code.
Staff at venues subject to the scheme will download a free QR code verifier app to a smartphone or device from the week beginning 13 September.
“We are working with other UK jurisdictions to ensure interoperability across the UK as well as considering how evidence of vaccination for people from outwith the UK can be verified,” the paper added.
Mandatory vaccine certification will be introduced in regulations under the Coronavirus Act 2020 and supported by guidance.
“We propose that the regulations will be drafted to impose a legal obligation on the person responsible for operating the business or venue to ‘take all reasonable measures’ to restrict entry only to those fully vaccinated (unless exempt),” the paper stated, adding that the government is also considering whether there is a need for offences with regard to the misuse of certificates by individuals.
Guidance will also be published to help set out what ‘reasonable measures’ would be proportionate in different settings – for example, what is proportionate on entry to a nightclub of 200 people may not be proportionate, or possible, in an event crowd of 60,000.
The paper admitted that there are “a number of operational and logistical issues” which are being worked though, with sector-specific detail to be published in advance of implementation.
All software, apps and paper copies of certificates will be free to use.
Businesses will be able to use an app free of charge to scan the codes used on all certificates, although they will require a hardware mechanism – such as mobile phones – to verify the certificates.
Any additional staffing or infrastructure costs will be met by businesses.
“We are working with a range of stakeholders to finalise the design of the scheme,” the paper added, stating that these stakeholders include local government, NHS boards and businesses organisations in sectors that will be required to implement a certification scheme.
Michael Grieve, chairperson of the Night Time Industries Association Scotland commission, responded: “Vaccine passports will further cripple an industry that has already borne so much in terms of the costs of this pandemic – it has been devastating to business. We are warning the First Minister that by going down this route she is making a serious error.
“Although Scottish Government officials have engaged with the sector following the policy announcement two weeks ago, it has become obvious that not one of the concerns we have raised is being seriously contemplated by ministers – despite the policy being implemented as early as next month.
“We have said repeatedly that, if it must happen, negative testing and natural immunity should be included for certification, but it feels like they have been burying their heads in the sand.”
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