Covid Scotland: Government urged to ditch vaccine passports and focus on recruitment to fix 'broken' tracing system

The Scottish Government is being being urged to ditch plans for coronavirus vaccine passports and focus instead on an emergency recruitment campaign to bolster the “broken” contact tracing system.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton made the plea to ministers ahead of Thursday’s debate on new Scottish Government plans to make coronavirus vaccine certificates a requirement of entry for nightclubs and some other large events.

Both the Lib Dems and Labour have already vowed to vote against the proposals when they come before MSPs at Holyrood.

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And the Scottish Conservatives have labelled the passport plan as “increasingly unworkable” – despite a similar proposal being rolled out by the UK Government for nightclub entry south of the border.

Mr Cole-Hamilton insisted the Scottish Government should be focusing on recruiting more staff to the Test and Protect contact tracing scheme, to help it cope in the wake of surging numbers of infections.

Health secretary Humza Yousaf recently announced contact tracers would only call those people who test positive for Covid-19 if they had been in a “high risk” setting, such as a hospital or had travelled abroad.

Others will instead be contacted by text message and asked to provide details of close contacts online.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said, however, that research by his party had found people were still waiting up to a week to be interviewed after testing positive.

He claimed: “The contact tracing system is broken. Scottish Liberal Democrats have been warning about the Test and Protect meltdown all summer long, and our research found positive cases waiting up to a week to be interviewed.

“Ministers should be recruiting more people, not cutting contact tracing down. Alongside vaccines, this is the single most important tool we have to stop people catching Covid.”

He insisted: “There needs to be an emergency recruitment drive, and ministers should spend their time fixing this instead of working on distractions like Covid ID cards. It needs fixed, now.”

Scottish Tories Covid recovery spokesman Murdo Fraser said there were “no answers and no detail” on the vaccine passport proposal from the Scottish Government just days out from a vote in Parliament.

Mr Fraser said: “We are extremely sceptical about vaccine passports and entirely opposed to any attempt to make them a permanent feature. The SNP cannot use this vote as a proxy to prolong Covid powers that were supposed to be temporary.

“These proposals appear increasingly unworkable. Key decisions have clearly been left to the last minute in the SNP’s usual rushed, shambolic way.

“Businesses were left in the dark and the plan had no input from most key industries who will be affected by the plan.

“We need more answers on what exactly this proposal aims to achieve, how fraud will be prevented, what infrastructure will be in place and when, what financial support will be available, and how the scheme will be administered.”

UK vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi had said on Sunday that introducing passports for large venues was the “right thing to do” to ensure the whole economy remained open.

“The worst thing we can do for those venues is to have a sort of open-shut-open-shut strategy because we see infection rates rise because of the close interaction of people," Mr Zahawi said.

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