Reasons for covid vaccine passport plans must be clear - Scotsman comment

When Nicola Sturgeon takes to her feet at the Scottish Parliament tomorrow to unveil the latest measures in Scotland's fight against coronavirus, she will be treading a familiar fine line between being too restrictive and too unrestricted.

Demonstrators take part in a protest against Covid certification in Belfast city centre at the weekend. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is expected to announce an extension of the scheme in Scotland on Tuesday. Photo: Dominic McGrath/PA Wire

Case numbers registered in parts of mainland Europe in recent days are a stark reminder that Covid is as virulent as ever.

The World Health Organisation has said it is "very worried" about the patterns being seen on the continent and warned that unless measures are tightened across Europe, half a million more deaths could be recorded by next spring.

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Thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets in the Netherlands, Austria, Croatia and Italy in protest against new curbs.

Yet there seems to be a consensus of opinion that the UK is unlikely to see such a surge in cases, at least in part because the Delta variant has already wreaked such havoc here during the summer.

A longer gap between first and second vaccine doses and a relatively low rate of vaccine hesitancy have also been cited as reasons why the UK is unlikely to see the rapid rise in cases that countries such as Austria have recently experienced.

The significance of the speedy development of effective vaccines can scarcely be over-stated. Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, one of those behind the creation of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, yesterday said the drugs might have prevented around 300,000 deaths in the UK.

But despite the development of these life-savers, the experience of last winter – when a relaxation of restrictions around Christmas was followed by rocketing Covid death numbers – must remain at the forefront of decision-makers’ minds.

Ms Sturgeon is tomorrow widely expected to announce an extension of the vaccine passport scheme, but, as Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said yesterday, evidence for their efficacy seems thin.

Mr Ross points to the Scottish Government's own evidence paper on the subject - which was released to little fanfare on Friday night.

If the scheme is to be extended, Ms Sturgeon must do a better job of setting out the justification for doing so. That is the very least businesses set to be worst affected by such a decision should be entitled to expect.

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