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Covid Update: First Minister confirms a pause to the Covid certification scheme's introduction

By David Porter

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The First Minsiter Nicola Sturgeon has addressed Holyrood with an update to the Covid certification scheme, confirming a pause in its introduction.

She said: "Last week, we set out further details of how the scheme will operate.

"I can confirm that we will be publishing further detailed guidance for businesses later today which will demonstrate the proportionate, common sense approach we are asking businesses to take.

"I would encourage businesses to familiarise themselves with this guidance, which will assist them in making the necessary preparations for the scheme coming into force.

"I can also confirm that the introduction of certification means that we are able to remove the capacity limits – and the associated exemption process – which have been in place for stadia and live events.

"I know this will be welcomed by event planners and local authorities.

"The certification scheme will apply as previously indicated to late night venues open after midnight with alcohol, music and dancing; to live indoor unseated events of more than 500 people; to live outdoor unseated events of more than 4000 people; and to any event of more than 10,000 people.

"This means that once the scheme starts, anyone over the age of 18, who wants to go to a large event – or to a late night venue – will be required to provide evidence that they are fully vaccinated, or evidence that they are exempt .

"To facilitate this, the NHS Covid Status app will go live on Thursday.

"It will provide a digital record of a user’s vaccination status, including a QR code for each vaccination a person has received.

"It is already possible for any of us of course to request a paper copy of our vaccination record, or to download a PDF from the NHS Inform website."

She continued: ""We have continued to engage with businesses as we have developed the detail of the certification scheme.

"I understand that many businesses have concerns about certification.

"However, I am very grateful to all those that have nevertheless engaged in these discussions so constructively.

"The Government remains of the view that a targeted certification scheme does have a part to play in driving vaccination rates up as high as possible, and providing an additional layer of protection over the winter months as we seek to achieve the potentially difficult task of keeping Covid under control while keeping our economy fully open.

"Indeed, many other countries are already demonstrating the value of Covid certification.

"It is for these reasons that Cabinet decided this morning to proceed with the laying of the regulations that will bring such a scheme into operation.

"However, as I have said previously, we are also determined to listen to and, as far as possible, respond to the reasonable concerns of business, so that the introduction and practical implementation of the scheme is as smooth as possible.

"I can confirm therefore that Cabinet this morning agreed a change to our original plans for the scheme’s commencement.

"The new, staged approach we are proposing now is designed to help businesses adapt to the requirement that the scheme will place upon them, and give them a period in which they can operationalise and test their arrangements in practice.

"I can therefore confirm that after the legal obligation comes into force at 5am on Friday this week, we intend to allow a further period of slightly more than two weeks until October 18, before any business could face enforcement action for non-compliance.

"This period, effectively a grace period, will allow businesses to test, adapt and build confidence in the practical arrangements they will need to put in place to be compliant with the scheme."

She concluded: "As I said earlier, the government is persuaded that a Covid certification scheme will help us mitigate the risk the virus poses to all of us over the winter, and that is why we intend to proceed with it.

"However, the pragmatic compromise that I have just outlined in relation to a staged introduction of the scheme demonstrates, I hope, that we are listening to business about the practical challenges they face, and that we are determined to work with them to overcome these."

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