Nicola Sturgeon says UK could lead on global 'Covid passport' proposal

Nicola Sturgeon has said the UK could take a lead in the development of global Covid-19 passports, but it is currently too early to press ahead with the scheme.

The First Minister told MSPs that more data was still needed on the impact of vaccines before advanced international talks could take place on Covid certification schemes.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair last week called for the passports to be developed, claiming it would aid the recovery of the economy, including the vital tourism sector.

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It would mean borders could open up to people who have been vaccinated.

British travellers waiting European passport controlBritish travellers waiting European passport control
British travellers waiting European passport control
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The issue was raised on Wednesday at Holyrood during First Minister’s Questions by Labour backbencher David Stewart, who said the UK's forthcoming presidency of the G7 gave the country the opportunity to take a lead on the issue, describing Covid passports as an "idea whose time has come”.

Ms Sturgeon said: "Yes, I do believe there's an opportunity to lead on this discussion.

"Is it an idea whose time has come right now? I'm not sure we're at that stage because I don't think we know and understand enough about the impact of the vaccine to know exactly what certification would be certifying and I think the whole world has more to learn about this before we can take final decisions.

"In the fullness of time, I think certification may well have a role to play.

"We all know from travel to certain parts of the world that already there are some diseases where you require certification of vaccination. So this is not something new and an unknown idea, but it does require a level of understanding that I don't think any country has right now.

"Hopefully in the not-too-distant future we will have a greater level of understanding and these discussions can continue in a more meaningful way and I do think we have an opportunity to very much be in a leadership position on that."

A study released on Tuesday suggested the Oxford Astrzeneca vaccine does significantly reduce the spread of the virus.

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Ms Sturgeon said: "We will continue to engage in international development including on the subject of vaccine certification.

"These discussions are led at a global level, they're led by the WHO [World Health Organisation] and will include consideration of technical details, ethical and equality issues, which I think are important in this regard and also privacy standards.

"The outcome of these discussions will guide our work in this area in future."

Mr Stewart said the global economy had been weakened as a result of the pandemic and the domestic tourism industry was in "freefall".

"An internationally recognised digital passport could contain details of vaccination history and results of Covid-19 tests accessed through a QR reader," he said.

Scotland’s national clinical director Professor Jason Leitch said last week more data was needed on the impact of vaccine before Covid passport proposals should be looked at.

"That doesn't mean we shouldn't get ready for what that might mean in our future,” he said.

"So I'm supportive, but I'm probably perhaps a little bit slower than some."

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