Cancellation avalanche fears over vaccine passports

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Pubs and restaurants face an "avalanche of cancellations" if the vaccine certification scheme is extended before Christmas, it has been claimed.

The Scottish government said extra mitigations could be put in place at hospitality venues from 6 December.

The deputy first minister told BBC Scotland one option is for people to have to show proof of a negative Covid test as well as vaccination.

But it is feared tougher rules may have a "devastating impact" on business.

Last winter, Scotland was under the toughest level of lockdown restrictions from 26 December until March.

Covid case numbers are currently much lower than the most recent peak in August, but have been slowly climbing again in recent weeks, prompting ministers to consider extending the vaccine passport scheme.

Bar and restaurant owners, however, warn that introducing "draconian" measures now would be "a massive step backwards".

Louise Maclean, who runs 20 bars in the Signature group, said customers already suffering from "pandemic fatigue" would simply stay at home.

She told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme: "I think the public will say, 'I just won't bother'. There is going to be an avalanche of cancellations.

"People will just stay in and have a house party rather the coming back out to what is such a regulated industry."

'Turn their backs'

Ms Maclean believes pub and restaurant-goers will question the point of vaccine certification.

"If you can still be positive for Covid and it can still be transmitted even though you are double vaccinated, I don't understand what the Covid passport will do," she said.

"It either has to encourage people to get a vaccination - and in that case bring it right across society - or it's there to suppress the virus, which it's not going to do anyway."

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Image caption,
Pubs in Scotland already work with restrictions including face mask-wearing and social distancing

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said he did not believe people would turn their backs on the hospitality industry during the festive period.

He told Good Morning Scotland: "I don't see why that would be the case. This is a relatively easy scheme for people to engage with.

"The other option is to add on testing as well - so vaccination certification and testing.

"There are various ways in which this can be undertaken and that is a theoretical option.

"But the government's focus is on using vaccine certification to boost levels of participation in the vaccines programme."

Mr Swinney previously said the Scottish government was trying to manage Covid to a level that "enables most of our economy and society to function as close to normality" as possible.

"I'm very hopeful that this could be a normal Christmas," he added. "It will be a normal Christmas with us all taking care, is what I would say.

"We may have to put in place some additional measures to make sure that is the case."

'Avoidable uncertainty'

The passport scheme currently only applies to nightclubs and major events such as concerts and football matches.

A decision had been widely expected to be made this week, with opposition leaders accusing the government of creating "wholly avoidable uncertainty" for businesses that could be affected.

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs on Tuesday there had been a "gradual increase" in new cases of Covid-19 over the last two weeks, with pressure on the health service expected to increase in winter.

The first minister said the vaccine passport scheme was making "an important and proportionate contribution to stemming transmission".

A final decision on whether to extend it will be made next Tuesday.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross accused the government of having "a total lack for respect for Scottish businesses".

He said: "The government has delayed again, creating wholly avoidable uncertainty. Businesses are once again being left in the dark and treated as an afterthought."