Nicola Sturgeon confirms vaccine passport plans and sounds alarm over ‘extremely concerning’ Covid surge

First minister suggests rise in infections due to schools returning was worse than expected – as pupils return in England and Wales

Andy Gregory
Wednesday 01 September 2021 19:07
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Rise in Covid cases in Scotland 'extremely concerning', Nicola Sturgeon says.mp4

Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed she intends to introduce vaccine passports at nightclubs and large events in Scotland later this month, as she warned the surge of new coronavirus cases in Scotland is “extremely concerning”.

As she laid out her plans to give MSPs a vote on the vaccine passport scheme next week, Scotland’s first minister also urged the public to consider reducing contact with people and said it would be “grossly irresponsible” to rule out reimposing restrictions.

Ms Sturgeon, who recently emerged from self-isolation following a negative PCR test, said an 80 per cent rise in infections over the past week means the “next few days will be crucial” in informing a decision on whether to reimpose restrictions.

Covid-19 cases in Scotland – where most schools returned two or three weeks ago – have hit several new all-time highs in recent days, with the most recent figures suggesting the seven-day average had hit 5,724 by 29 August, up from 3,374 a week earlier.

The number of people in hospital with coronavirus in Scotland now stands at 629, having more than doubled in under a fortnight, while daily reported deaths hit a six-month high on Wednesday, exceeding 200 for the first time since 9 March.

Ms Sturgeon told Holyrood: “Despite expecting to see some increase in cases [due to schools reopening], the scale of the increase in recent weeks has been extremely concerning.”

The number of new cases being reported is now five times higher than it was four weeks ago and it is “by no means impossible” that Scotland could see 10,000 new infections a day, Ms Sturgeon said.

She said: “We do not want to reimpose restrictions, even in a limited way. We know only too well how much harm restrictions cause to businesses, young people’s education, and to our overall wellbeing.

“But if that is to be avoided, as I hope it can be, it will take all of us making a conscious and concerted effort again to comply with all the basic mitigations that we know can slow down transmission.”

Scotland removed most restrictions on 9 August, when it moved “beyond level zero” but it has kept some measures in place, such as mandatory face coverings, and plans to introduce vaccine passports later this month after the Holyrood vote.

The scheme will apply to nightclubs, unseated indoor events with more than 500 people in the audience, unseated outdoor events with more than 4,000 in the audience, and at any event with more than 10,000 in attendance.

While ministers are not currently applying the scheme to the hospitality industry as a whole, Ms Sturgeon said, this will be kept under review.

UKHospitality’s executive director for Scotland, Leon Thompson, said the “fact that there has been no attempt to engage with the sector ahead of this announcement is extremely concerning”, while the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, warned introducing vaccine passports for pubs could mean “thousands of businesses not surviving to the end of the year”.

Meanwhile, south of the Scottish border, Downing Street confirmed on Tuesday that Boris Johnson also intends to introduce vaccine passports for “nightclubs and some other settings”, with details to emerge “in the coming weeks”.

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