South Scotland MSP has welcomed the u-turn by the Scottish Government to include proof of a negative COVID test as an alternative to proof of vaccine on a COVID passport- but accused the Government of being too slow to make the move.

The local MSP’s comments came when he questioned the First Minister during her COVID update statement in the Scottish Parliament today (23 November). During her update Nicola Sturgeon announced the Scottish Government would now include a negative COVID test as an alternative to proof of vaccine from 6 December- two months after originally introducing COVID passports. Proof of a negative test has been in place in the Welsh Government’s COVID passport since it was first introduced in October. A negative test will also be allowed as an alternative to proof of vaccine in Northern Ireland when their COVID passports are introduced next month.

Speaking in Parliament, Colin Smyth said, “We were too slow in introducing testing for key workers such as carers, we were too slow in introducing testing in our airports, and now we have been too slow in introducing testing as part of our vaccination passport scheme. It has not been a case of test, test, test; it has been slow, slow, slow.

Given that half the number of PCR tests that were being taken two months ago are now being taken now and that the number of  lateral flow tests is still not high enough, is the First Minister really saying that we are doing enough to make what she called for earlier—routine twice-weekly testing—the norm rather than the exception? The Government is simply not following the policy of mass testing that we need to deliver a robust response to the pandemic”.

Commenting afterwards Colin Smyth added, “There will be sigh of relief from many businesses that the COVID passport has not been extended to for example cafes and small bars where it would have been impossible to enforce or cinemas, especially the small independent ones we have a across the region, where there hasn’t been a single recorded case of COVID, although some anger at the uncertainty caused by the speculation we have had over the past few weeks that it would be expanded”.

“The Government claimed the introduction of a proof of vaccine only passport was to drive up vaccination levels, but the rate of increase in Scotland in recent weeks has been the same as in England where there is no vaccine passport and the same as in Wales where their COVID passport has included a negative test as an alternative”.

“By not including a negative test as an option in the original COVD passport, the Government has undermined the importance of ensuring that we all test on a regular basis”.

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