Welsh Government wins NHS Covid Pass vote

·4-min read

Covid passes are to be introduced in Wales after the Welsh Government won a tight vote in the Senedd.

The Welsh Conservatives, Plaid Cymru and the single Liberal Democrat MS were branded “grossly irresponsible” for voting against the proposals.

They had raised concerns about civil liberties and the details of the plan, which would see the NHS Covid Pass be mandatory for all adults wishing to enter nightclubs or attend certain large events.

It will come into force from October 11 and it would mean all over-18s would need to have one to enter nightclubs, indoor, non-seated events for more than 500 people, such as concerts or conventions, outdoor non-seated events for more than 4,000 people and any setting or event with more than 10,000 people in attendance.

People would also be able to show they have had a negative lateral flow test result within the last 48 hours.

Coronavirus – Fri May 7, 2021
A lateral flow kit (PA)

During a debate in the Senedd, health and social care minister Eluned Morgan said the public was on the Government’s side.

“I want to be clear that the Welsh Labour Government has not suggested the introduction of this measure lightly,” she said.

“It has been challenging for us because we wanted to think through very carefully, what were the practical, what were the legal what were the ethical implications of introducing a passport of this type.”

She said Wales was facing some of the highest infection rates since the beginning of the pandemic, particularly among young people, and the Government had to take action to prevent super-spreader events.

“Not supporting this measure today will be an act of gross irresponsibility when it comes to public health in Wales,” she said.

“This measure will allow the facilities to stay open in the face and one of the most challenging winters that we are yet to face.

“The public is on our side on this, and they are watching you in this chamber today and I urge you to support this measure.”

Conservative health spokesman Russell George accused of the Welsh Government of a U-turn, having previously ruled out introducing them.

“I just do not think that we should become a checkpoint society by introducing a vaccine passport,” Mr George said.

“There is a wide range of ethical, equality, privacy, legal and operational ramifications of Covid passports.

“There is a real risk here that the implementation of Covid passes could be a complete disaster.

“In Scotland, we have seen the rollout has been a disaster there and the Labour Party conference in Brighton was plagued with problems.”

Mr George said the introduction risked creating a two-tier society as some people were unable to be vaccinated for health reasons.

Plaid health spokesman Rhun ap Iorwerth said his party was not against the principle of Covid passes but took issue with the proposals in their current form, including the use of lateral flow tests.

“We’re not being asked to vote on a principle, we’re voting on a specific set of regulations, and I’m afraid that those regulations, at this point raise more questions than they provide answers,” he said.

“We’ve asked many questions and haven’t been given assurances that we have sought, and it is for that reason that we feel unable to support these regulations.”

Conservative MS James Evans said backing the proposals was an “extremely slippery slope” and undermined a liberal society.

“Freedoms and democracies are hard-won, and anything that erodes personal freedoms, I simply cannot support,” he said.

“World history does not make pretty reading when you start to discriminate against people because of a single issue.

“I find this a terrible prospect, and not one that anybody who wants to live in a 21st century liberal democracy would support.

“The slippery slope is one that concerns me greatly.

“Of course, the Government will say this system will only be implemented for as long as Covid is with us, but governments of all colours and all political persuasions change their minds, and once introduced, regulations are very rarely repealed.”

Members of the Senedd voted 28-27 in favour of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) Regulations.

One member, understood to be a Conservative, was unable to vote due to a problem with their Zoom link.

The Night Time Industries Association Wales, which has opposed the introduction of the scheme, called for a fresh vote.

“It is a democratic outrage that one MS who wanted to vote, and who would have voted against the proposals, could not, due to a mere technical error,” a spokesman said.

“This shambles will cause even more uncertainty for our businesses.

“There must be an urgent re-vote so that the will of the Senedd can be fairly expressed and businesses have some clarity about the future.”

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