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Night-time sector criticises Welsh COVID Passport scheme, as technical problem in Senedd impacts on vote

By | Published on Wednesday 6 October 2021

COVID Passport

Plans to force nightclubs and some other venues in Wales to check COVID Passports at the door are going ahead after the proposals were yesterday passed by the country’s assembly, or Senedd as it is now known. But the vote was very close – with 28 for and 27 against – with one member of the Senedd who would have opposed the proposals not able to vote due to technical problems. As a result, the night-time sector is calling for a revote.

While the UK government last month abandoned plans to force clubs and venues to check the vaccination or COVID status of customers at the door across England, ministers in both Scotland and Wales confirmed they were going ahead with their similar schemes.

In Scotland, those proposals were passed by the country’s Parliament last month and the new requirements went into force last weekend, albeit with some flexibility in the rules for the first two weeks.

A new app created to allow Scottish clubbers to show that they have been vaccinated against COVID was launched at the very last minute last week and experienced various technical problems over the weekend, resulting in new calls from the night-time sector for the Scottish government to abandon the COVID Passport scheme entirely.

The new COVID Passport requirement in Wales still needed to be approved by the Senedd, with the vote taking place yesterday. All the opposition parties decided to vote against the Labour-led Welsh government’s plan, though – with some members still accessing Senedd sessions via Zoom – one Conservative member, Gareth Davies, was unable to vote due to technical problems.

The Senedd’s Presiding Officer Elin Jones ultimately decided to go ahead with the vote, despite those technical issues, stating: “We have made every opportunity possible for that named member to get in, including sharing my personal phone”. Had Davies voted against the proposals, that would have resulted in a tie, which, it’s thought, would have forced Jones to back either the status quo – so no new entry requirement – or further debate.

Given the controversy surrounding the COVID Passport scheme – and how close the vote was – reps for the night-time sector have called for a revote, keen to still force the plan to be abandoned before it comes into force next week.

The NTIA said in a statement yesterday: “The NTIA has long campaigned against the introduction of COVID Passports due to the operational barriers these measures will cause. We were pleased to see the number of [Senedd members] that listened to our concerns today and voted against these proposals”.

“It is a democratic outrage that one [member] who wanted to vote, and who would have voted against the proposals, could not, due to a mere technical error”, it added. “This shambles will cause even more uncertainty for our businesses. There must be an urgent revote so that the will of the Senedd can be fairly expressed and businesses have some clarity about the future”.

Whereas under Scotland’s rules, only those who have been fully vaccinated can enter clubs and venues covered by the COVID Passport requirement, in Wales a negative COVID test will also be sufficient to gain entry.