Anas Sarwar has declared that Scottish Labour will not be supporting the SNP government’s proposal to introduce Covid vaccine passports for domestic uses including as a condition of entry for nightlife and other venues.
Commenting on the plan outlined by Nicola Sturgeon in the Scottish parliament earlier this week, Sarwar warned that introducing vaccine certification could “increase or entrench vaccine hesitancy among harder-to-reach groups”.
“Scottish Labour’s opposition to domestic vaccine passports is not opposition for opposition’s sake. We have supported the government at key moments throughout the pandemic. Nor is this an ideological opposition,” he said today.
“This is simply about what works, what will make an actual difference and what will keep people safe. This decision from the government is more about trying to look in control of a virus that is clearly out of control.
Sturgeon announced on Thursday that Scotland would be the first UK nation to introduce vaccine passports amid concern over rising Covid cases. The devolved nation logged record-high numbers of new cases last week.
The Scottish Labour leader today said that the increased transmission was “causing pressures on the NHS” and warned of the “significant health risks” of contracting the virus, even for individuals who had received two doses of the vaccine.
“Research suggests that vaccine passports could actually be more likely to increase or entrench vaccine hesitancy among harder to reach groups,” he said.
“And there is a real risk that vaccine certification could lead to a false sense of security among people who can still transmit the virus. That’s why the immediate and fundamental focus of the government must be on fixing the failing test and protect system and pulling out all the stops to ensure maximum vaccine coverage.”
Official figures for the test and protect system shows that in recent weeks the proportion of cases for which contact tracing was completed dropped to just 42.3% and the average number of contacts reached per case has fallen to 1.5.
In England, Downing Street is pressing ahead with its plans to introduce domestic Covid vaccine passports for nightclubs and other crowded indoor venues later this month, despite objections from Conservative backbenchers.
In one of his ‘call Keir’ sessions on LBC radio station at the end of July, UK Labour leader Keir Starmer told listeners that he was in support of “passports plus testing” for mass events but not for “access to critical things”.
“Passports on their own aren’t enough. As we know, sadly, you can be double-jabbed and still get the new variant. It’s got to be passports plus testing,” he said.
“And that would be for sporting events, et cetera. It depends on what the government puts on the table. What I don’t want to see is vaccine passports used on an everyday basis for access to critical things, like health, dentistry, food, et cetera.”