Industry groups express concern as Nicola Sturgeon indicates use of app may be required from the first week of December
Hospitality and entertainment venues across Scotland could soon face a legal requirement to ask visitors to provide evidence of vaccination, Scottish Government first minister Nicola Sturgeon has warned.
Currently, Scots are required to show evidence of having been fully vaccinated in order to visit nightclubs, sexual entertainment venues, and unseated indoor and outdoor events with more than 500 and 10,000 attendees, respectively.
Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament this week that a decision will be taken next week on whether to extend the scheme to cover a much broader range of settings. If the scheme is so extended, changes will take effect on 6 December.
“To allow us to engage openly with businesses in the coming days about the pros, cons and practicalities, I can confirm that the kinds of settings that might be in scope would be indoor cinemas, theatres, and some other licensed and hospitality premises,” she said.
The primary means through which Scottish citizens can provide evidence of their vaccination is the NHS Scotland Covid Status app. The program, the release of which was dogged by techncical challenges, issues users with a secure QR code, embedded within which are details of the person’s vaccine record, which can be accessed and verified through a complementary mobile app created for use by staff at venues.
The app currently reflects only the initial two doses of a coronavirus vaccine, but Sturgeon indicated that the technology will, in due course, also allow users to demonstrate receipt of a so-called booster dose. More than a million Scots have thus far received a third jab, and the first minister’s announcement follows a similar pledge this week from UK prime minister Boris Johnson.
“We are currently looking at how we incorporate booster vaccinations into the vaccine certification and into the app,” she said. “Steps will be taken to ensure, particularly for international travel, where we are reliant on the requirements of other countries, that people are not disadvantaged and that the benefits of booster vaccinations are properly reflected.”
The Scottish vaccine certification scheme is covered by the reciprocity agreement recently reached by the UK and the EU, through which travellers from this country to more than 40 other nations can now use an NHS app at border checkpoints and venues requiring certification.
The possibility of the Scottish vaccine passport scheme being extended across pubs, restaurants, theatres and cinemas has not been welcomed by trade bodies representing the leisure and hospitality industries.
A group of industry organisations jointly undertook a survey which found that more than three quarters of respondents said that “should the policy be extended… they would not survive without further economic support from government”.
“The survey also shows that covid certification has a hugely negative impact on businesses already caught by the policy and any extension will have a devastating impact on the wider hospitality sector,” a collective statement from the group added.