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Senedd approves extension of NHS COVID pass to include cinemas, theatres and concert halls

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Members of the Senedd have approved the extension of the NHS COVID pass to cinemas, theatres and concert halls in Wales.

The first vote to introduce the scheme was tight, passing by only one vote after a member of the Welsh Conservatives had technical problems voting remotely.

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The vote to extend the COVID pass scheme passed easily after Plaid Cymru supported the Welsh Labour motion, having previously voted against introducing the scheme.

Following the vote, the Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan said: “I am pleased the extension has been agreed today following the vote. Covid has not gone away and cases remain high and we need to continue take steps to Keep Wales Safe.  The NHS COVID Pass is one measure among many to help to keep businesses open while also helping to control the spread of the virus. 

“The decision to introduce them has not been taken lightly and the venues that will be covered are indoors and see large numbers of people being closely together for prolonged periods of time.

“Since 11 October, people have been required to show an NHS COVID Pass or recent negative lateral flow test result to enter nightclubs, similar venues and events and the service is working well. We have received positive feedback from a range of businesses and organisers of major events, including following the recent rugby internationals.  We will continue to work with the sectors who are implementing the scheme to best support them.”

The Welsh Conservative constitutional spokesman Darren Millar said there were “many ethical and equality issues with Covid passes”, repeating concerns that results from lateral flow devices are self-declared.

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“You can swab your dog and put its result in that system and still get your vaccine passport to be able to attend any event, nightclub, cinema theatre or anywhere else, it is ridiculous.”

The Welsh Liberal Democrats, whose sole AM, Jane Dodds MS also voted against the motion said the party was disappointed to see the COVID pass system extended.

Jane Dodds MS said: “Our view remains that the system is both illiberal and unworkable and we have not been provided with evidence to the contrary. The Welsh Government has broken trust by expanding a scheme it initially stated was for very limited circumstances.

“Despite requests to the Health Minister, we have not been provided with any evidence that shows the scheme has been effective in keeping down case numbers. There has also been no evidence provided to as why cinemas, theatres and concert halls have been singled out specifically.

“Both the Government’s own advisory unit and Chief Medical Officer have themselves admitted in the last week that the impact of the scheme is likely very small.

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“It is deeply concerning the impact this decision will have on small businesses across Wales, over the last few weeks a number of community cinemas and theatres have gotten in touch with to express their fear of how they are meant to hire new staff to enforce this scheme without any financial support from the Welsh Government.

“Beyond the practical implications of this scheme remains an example of poor law-making with no set review period. How long will the passes be in place? Where and when will they be expanded to next?

“There will be serious financial repercussions if the scheme is expanded to other forms of hospitality including restaurants and cafes. We could also end up in the same situation as Italy, which has now mandated COVID Passports for public transport.

“Finally, I find it utterly hypocritical for the Conservatives to pretend they are the ones defending civil liberties and evidence-based policy when their Party is currently trying to push through voter ID against all evidence showing that it is ineffective and unnecessary.

“The willingness for Plaid Cymru and the Conservative to only stand up for liberal values and civil liberties when it suits them best shows exactly why the Welsh Liberal Democrats are needed in the Senedd.”

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Commenting on the U-turn by Plaid Cymru Jane Dodds said: “In their U-turn Plaid Cymru have also shown us today that they will only stand up for liberal values when it suits them politically. 

“The facts on the ground have not changed at all since the last vote has been held. Unless Plaid Cymru knows something the rest of us don’t, there is no reason they should have changed their mind.”

Following the vote NHS COVID passes will now be needed in cinemas, theatres and concert halls from Monday 15 November.

(Lead image: Photo by Luis Quintero / Pexels.com)

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