Nicola Sturgeon announces end to mandatory vaccine passports in Scotland

The legal requirement to wear masks will be dropped from March 21 although the Scottish Government will continue to recommend they should be worn.

22 February 2022

Scotland’s mandatory coronavirus vaccine passport scheme is to be scrapped from Monday, Nicola Sturgeon has announced, with other legal restrictions expected to be ended in March.

The Scottish First Minister said this would happen assuming there were “no significant adverse developments” in the fight against the virus.

However, while the legal requirement to wear masks in some settings will be dropped from March 21, the Scottish Government will still “strongly recommend” people continue to use face coverings.

The First Minister also made clear the Scottish Government would “continue to ask those who test positive for Covid to isolate for the recommended period”.

Isolating after testing positive “with a highly infectious virus, remains one of the most fundamental public health protections that we have available to us”, the First Minister said.

Her comments came the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed coronavirus laws in England – including the legal requirement for people who test positive to isolate – are  to end on Thursday.

Mr Johnson said that free universal testing in England was also being scrapped in April.

Ms Sturgeon said that move left her Government seeking clarity from the Treasury about whether it would continue to provide the necessary money for this or would “demand instead that funding is taken from elsewhere in the health budget”.

The First Minister made plain her “frustration at the position of the UK Government”.

The Scottish Government will look to continue to provision of free lateral flow tests longer term, she added, saying: “We consider it important – in line with the principle of healthcare free at the point of use – that they should remain free of charge for any circumstance in which  Government recommends testing.”

However, in a change of stance, the Scottish Government is now advising people to do a lateral flow test twice a week – moving back from the position where the public were asked to do a test before meeting with other people.

That comes as the current threat level from the virus is assessed as being “medium” under the terms laid out in a new Scottish Government framework document, Ms Sturgeon said.

But the First Minister added that if infection levels continued to fall, and if hospital admissions do the same or “broadly stabilise”, the threat level could drop to “low”.

She told MSPs that the coronavirus vaccine passport scheme, which required Scots to show their vaccination status before entering a nightclub or attending a large event, would be ended from Monday February 28.

However, the app for the scheme will remain operational, allowing businesses to use it on a “voluntary basis to reassure customers” if they wish to do so.

From March 21 “assuming no significant adverse developments in the course of the virus”, the legal requirement to wear a face mask on public transport and in some indoor settings will also be ended.

Ms Sturgeon added: “We will continue to strongly recommend the wearing of face coverings in shops and other indoor public places, and on public transport.”

The legal requirement for businesses to retain customer contact details in case this is needed for contact tracing is also expected to end on March 21.

The First Minister declared: “Governments must act lawfully, and that means we cannot impose legal restrictions when it is disproportionate to do so.

“As the situation improves and the severity of the impact from Covid reduces, we are duty bound to remove legally imposed restrictions.

“However, this should not be taken as a signal that Covid no longer presents any risk to health. It clearly does.”

She told MSPs at Holyrood that the change in approach “is possible because widespread vaccination coverage and better treatments have reduced the direct harms of the virus”.

Ms Sturgeon said: “As a result, using restrictions to suppress infection is no longer as necessary as it once was.

“And given the wider harms caused by protective measures, it is no longer as justifiable either.

“The strategic framework therefore makes clear that in future we will rely less on legally imposed measures to control the virus – and more on vaccines, treatments, and sensible adaptations and good public health behaviours.”

The latest daily figures showed Scotland had recorded 6,427 new cases of the virus, as well as 18 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

Meanwhile 1,060 people are in hospital, Ms Sturgeon said, with 25 people are in intensive care.

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