Welsh Government accused of U-turn as vaccine passes planned
First Minister Mark Drakeford said people will have to show an NHS Covid Pass from next month
The Welsh Government has been accused of a U-turn after announcing vaccine passes will be needed for entry into nightclubs and large events.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said people will have to show an NHS Covid Pass from next month, as part of measures introduced to help control the spread of coronavirus.
The Welsh Conservatives said the First Minister had previously been against the idea, and highlighted that the scheme will only be introduced two weeks after the peak in infections as shown in the Government’s own modelling.
Mr Drakeford said rates of Covid-19 remain very high in Wales, but the alert level will be kept at zero for the next three weeks.
He encouraged everyone to work from home whenever possible and to make sure they are fully vaccinated.
There will also be an increase in awareness and enforcement of other key Covid-19 protection measures, including face coverings in indoor public places and on public transport.
Mr Drakeford said around 30% of adults under 30 in Wales are yet to take up the offer of vaccination but he denied introducing Covid passes for entry to nightclubs or events is a punishment.
“I don’t regard it as a punishment to put something in place that will help those young people to stay safe and to help other people stay safe as well,” he said.
“Neither vaccination or a pass is a magic bullet.
“Being vaccinated does provide you with significant advantages to yourself and others and it does make you less likely to transmit the virus asymptomatically to other people, but it does not stop it from happening and neither does it stop you contracting coronavirus.
“What it does is lower the risk and add to the repertoire of things we are doing in Wales to try and reduce the risk.”
The Welsh Government is considering whether to introduce a criminal offence of faking a Covid pass.
“We will consider over the next few days whether or not to introduce a specific offence of knowingly and deliberately falsifying a Covid pass,” Mr Drakeford said.
“If there are people who just think this is an easy ride and they can invent results, they may find there are significant consequences for them in doing so.”
He said the action the Welsh Government is taking now aims to prevent further lockdowns later this year.
The requirement to show an NHS Covid Pass will come into force from October 11 and it will mean all over-18s will need to have one to enter nightclubs, indoor non-seated events for more than 500 people, such as concerts or conventions, outdoor non-seated events for more than 4,000 people and any setting or event with more than 10,000 people in attendance
The First Minister said people who are fully vaccinated in Wales can already download the NHS Covid Pass to securely show and share their vaccine status.
It also allows people to show they have had a negative lateral flow test result within the last 48 hours.
In response, Welsh Conservative Senedd leader Andrew RT Davies said: “This is another disappointing U-turn from Labour’s First Minister who told me in July he was against the idea of people having to show a Covid passport to enter a venue or event in Wales.
“Welsh Conservatives have been against the introduction of such documentation from the outset, due to the wide-ranging ethical, equality, privacy, legal, and operational ramifications.
“The timing of its implementation in Wales by ministers is also questionable and will come a fortnight after the peak in the Labour Government’s own modelling of the latest wave, and some two months after these large-scale events resumed and venues across the country.
“For many, even those who support such a restriction, this looks like another perfect example of Labour ministers in Cardiff Bay closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.”
The Night Time Industries Association Wales said it is disappointed with the decision.
“We are disappointed that the Welsh Government has felt it must mandate Covid passports at this stage, albeit a more liberal implementation with the inclusion of testing,” a spokeswoman said.
“We still feel that these measures will have a negative impact on businesses, and will create considerable market distortion.”
Jodie Beck, from human rights campaign group Liberty, said: “While we welcome the decision of the Welsh Government to not exclude those who have not received the vaccine from attending large events, the introduction of a vaccine pass in Wales still sets a dangerous precedent.
“Vaccine passports under any name mean more coercion and division, and risk creating a two-tier society where people who are already marginalised will see their rights and autonomy most affected.
“The Welsh Government must not use this vaccine pass as the first step to normalise and usher in even more coercive policies, such as wider use of vaccine passports and mandatory vaccinations.”