EXTENDING the vaccine passport scheme will incur “some costs” for businesses, ministers have been told, but it could increase levels of vaccination and reduce infection.
Ministers will decide on Tuesday if the current scheme, which came into effect last month, will be extended to include other settings.
Currently, attendees in nightclubs and other large events have to show they have been double jabbed, but Nicola Sturgeon said this week that could be widened to include theatres, cinemas and other hospitality venues.
An evidence paper published on Friday said that, while the extension could increase the level of vaccination in the older age group as well as reduce infection, it would cost businesses to implement.
Employing and training more staff and supplying hardware to scan the passports were highlighted as potential cost factors, alongside a loss in revenue from cancelled tickets to events and customers choosing to go somewhere a passport is not required.
But the report claims the costs incurred would be better than the alternative – which could see the return of restrictions or even closure because of a coronavirus induced lockdown.
In the paper’s conclusion section, which was collated by government officials using “an elaborate and collaborative process”, it said: “Research evidence indicates including a wider range of settings may increase the usefulness of certification as a measure to reduce infection.
“Wider international evidence suggests that expanding the settings included in any certification scheme may encourage older individuals who are not yet vaccinated to take up the vaccine.
“While certification is unlikely to convince the most vaccine hesitant to be vaccinated, it may convince those who are currently indifferent.”
It continued: “It will introduce some costs for a wide range of businesses.
“However, in a situation where cases are rising and hospitals are operating at capacity it allows higher risk settings to remain open as safely as possible, and to continue to trade.
“It may also provide a more sustainable basis for these businesses to continue to operate safely in the long run.”
As a result of putting in place the necessary infrastructure to operate the scheme, “individual businesses may experience a deterioration in their operating conditions, diminishing their resilience to cope with further impacts”, the report claimed.
The First Minister this week also said ministers may also allow for negative lateral flow tests to be used as an alternative to the vaccine passports, as is the case in other countries.
While the paper claims the change may leave the unvaccinated “vulnerable” at large events, it added: “It addresses issues of human rights and equalities and could reduce the risk of infection in venues at this stage in the pandemic.”
The report’s authors also concluded that the extension may show the public that the pandemic is “still with us”, despite the lifting of most major restrictions at the end of the summer.
Covid Recovery Secretary John Swinney said: “With cases rising gradually and pressures on our NHS, our approach is to keep people safe and get through a challenging winter without having to re-introduce any restrictions.
“This paper provides an update of the evidence of the vaccine certification scheme and focuses on the potential impact of a range of options for expanding it.
“Our vaccine certification scheme is working well, with venues and events affected continuing to operate and more than 1.5 million downloads of the NHS Covid status app so far.
“We want businesses to remain open throughout the Christmas period so it is sensible to consider options available to expand Covid certification. We will continue to consult with hospitality industry representatives and will set out our proposed approach next week.”
Scottish Tory Covid recovery spokesman Murdo Fraser said the report “failed to provide concrete proof of the scheme’s effectiveness”, adding: “In contrast, the devastating impact on businesses is all too clear.”