Scotland to Scrap COVID-19 Vaccine Passports, Mask Mandates

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Scotland’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccine passport scheme is to be scrapped next week, with other legal restrictions including mask mandates expected to be ended in March, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced.

Addressing the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on Tuesday, Sturgeon said that the vaccine passport scheme, which required Scots to show their vaccination status before entering a nightclub or attending a large event, would be ended from Feb. 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, she said.

But she said the government “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.

Sturgeon told Scottish lawmakers: “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 said the change in approach “is possible because widespread vaccination coverage and better treatments have reduced the direct harms of the virus.”

“As a result, using restrictions to suppress infection is no longer as necessary as it once was,” she said. “And given the wider harms caused by protective measures, it is no longer as justifiable either.”

Therefore, Sturgeon said, the Scottish government 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 announcement came the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed all CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus restrictions will end on Feb. 24, including the legal requirement for those who test positive to self-isolate.

But Sturgeon made clear the Scottish government would “continue to ask those who test positive for COVID to isolate for the recommended period.”

She also expressed “frustration” at the UK government’s decision to scrap free universal testing in England in April.

She said the Scottish government will look to continue to the provision of free lateral flow tests longer term and is 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.”

PA Media contributed to this report.

Alexander Zhang

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