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Nicola Sturgeon has insisted vaccine passports will “make a difference” reducing the spread of coronavirus but hopes they will not be required for the long term.
Scotland’s First Minister said requiring proof of vaccination to nightclubs and large events “will be worth it” if helps to keeps businesses open and reduce the likelihood of restrictions being reimposed.
The UK Government shelved plans for vaccine certification over the weekend after backlash from Tory MPs.
But Scottish ministers are persisting with plans to require the vaccine passports at indoor seated events of 500 or more attendees, unseated outdoor live events with more than 4,000 people in the audience and “any event, of any nature, which has more than 10,000 people in attendance”.
When announcing the plans, Ms Sturgeon argued that requiring proof of vaccination could both help to reduce the spread of the virus and encourage people to get vaccinated.
Speaking at the SNP’s conference, Ms Sturgeon suggested the measure could prevent further restrictions.
If the simple act of showing that we’ve been vaccinated helps keep businesses open and our lives free of restrictions, then I believe it will be worth it
Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister
Urging people to get vaccinated, continue wearing face masks, social distancing and encouraging ventilation indoors, Ms Sturgeon said: “All of these basic mitigations make a difference.
“So too will the limited system of vaccine certification approved by parliament last week.
“I hope it won’t be necessary for long.
“But if the simple act of showing that we’ve been vaccinated helps keep businesses open and our lives free of restrictions, then I believe it will be worth it.”
She continued: “The sacrifices we are all being asked to make now may not be as great as a few months ago – but they’re still hard.
“They also make a big difference so let’s keep going.”
Ms Sturgeon stressed that a “great national effort” is still needed to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, despite the “positive gamechanger” of vaccines.
She told SNP members: “The collective, national effort over these past months has been nothing short of extraordinary.
“I am acutely aware of the sacrifices people have made and the hardships many are still enduring.
“I will never find the words to adequately express my gratitude but that great national effort is needed still.
“To save lives and protect our NHS, we must drive infections down again.
“The government must lead – but we need the help of every person and every business in Scotland.”
Thanking people who have had their vaccinations, she described it as “the most precious gift any of us can give our loved ones” and urged anyone yet to be vaccinated to attend a drop-in clinic.
Ms Sturgeon also called for anti-vaxxers to “cease and desist” from spreading misinformation about the coronavirus vaccines.
Addressing them directly, she said: “To the small but noisy minority who knowingly spread fear and misinformation about vaccines, I say this – stop being selfish and irresponsible.
“Stop putting the health and wellbeing of the country at risk. It’s time to cease and desist.
“Getting vaccinated is an expression of love and solidarity. It is about helping each other, and helping the NHS.”
Following the UK Government’s decision to scrap its vaccination passport plans, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton called for the Scottish Government to do the same.
“The solution to the current crisis is vaccinations and a functioning contact tracing system, not Covid ID cards. You shouldn’t have to share your private medical information with someone who is not your clinician.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats will campaign for these illiberal and intrusive ID cards to be abolished here in Scotland.”
Scottish Conservative spokesman for the Covid recovery, Murdo Fraser, described the proposals as “half-baked” and accused ministers of “making this plan up as they go along”.
“The SNP bulldozed the vaccine passport scheme through parliament, relying only on the support of their spineless Green coalition partners who previously opposed it,” he said.
“It’s unacceptable that the SNP Government is still filling in the blanks of such a major policy. Now it seems that they’re considering spot checks, but only after football clubs made it clear their plan was unworkable.
“The scheme will come into force in a matter of weeks and the SNP still can’t provide any clarity on key questions surrounding its implementation.”