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'Relief' for small Highland businesses over vaccine passport requirements as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlines plan of action amidst still 'precarious' Covid-19 situation

By Hector MacKenzie

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David Richardson has also called on businesses to ensure they are doing everything they can to minimise Covid-19 risk.
David Richardson has also called on businesses to ensure they are doing everything they can to minimise Covid-19 risk.

"RIPPLES" of relief amongst Highland businesses will be felt after today's Scottish Government announcement on vaccine passport requirements.

That's the view of Federation of Small Businesses’ Highlands & Islands development manager David Richardson in the wake of what First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today announced.

The Scottish Government will not extend vaccine passport requirements to a wider range of businesses although various restrictions will remain in place amid what she called a "precarious" situation.

David Richardson, said: “Ripples of relief will be spreading throughout the Highland’s many small, independent hospitality and leisure firms at this news.

"We know from our survey work how worried the owners of some of the businesses hit hardest by the pandemic – small cafés, restaurants and so on – were that an extension of the scheme would have put pressure on their staff and driven up costs, undermining their plans for the festive period.

“However, the First Minister is clearly right – citizens, government and businesses of all sizes have roles to play in keeping this virus under control, which is why we are urging all smaller firms to look again at the current Covid rules and ask themselves if they’re playing their parts to the full.”

Ms Sturgeon earlier called on people who are socialising over festive period to take lateral flow tests, especially those who have not been vaccinated who she said could be “putting lives in danger.”

Ms Sturgeon says people were already asked to do this routinely twice a week but over the festive period to make an "extra effort."

Working from home, though not ideal for many, should remain the norm whenever possible as it "remains one of the most effective protections" against Covid.

Ms Sturgeon said: "I can confirm that the judgement we arrived at this morning are as follows: Firstly, for at least a further three-week period we will retain vaccine certification for the venues and events currently covered by the scheme. That is, late night licence premises with a designated area for dancing on seated indoor events of 500 people or more. Outdoor events of 4000 people or more and any event with 10,000 people or more.

"Given the current state of the pandemic, it is our judgement that it would not be appropriate at this stage to remove this protection against transmission.

"Secondly, however, we have decided that from December 6 it will be possible to access venues or events covered by the scheme by showing either proof of vaccination as now, or a recent negative lateral flow test result. So we'll also ensure that the schema remains proportionate going forward and also help our wider efforts to stop transmission, through greater use of LFD tests more generally.

"And finally, as I indicated last week, having also considered the possible extension of the scheme to a much wider range. This included indoor theatre cinemas and other hospitality venues. Let me stress, this was a very, very finely balanced decision. However, I can confirm that at this stage, we have decided not to extend the scope of the scheme.

"We have taken account of the fact that although our situation is precarious, rates are currently stable and indeed slightly declining."

On the more general approach going forward, Ms Sturgeon said: "So when you see those ads, please take a moment to listen and remind yourself of the protections that will help keep you and others safe. What are those other protections?

"Firstly, as well as vaccination. We are asking everyone to take regular lateral flow test. We have been asking people to do this routinely twice a week.

"However, over the festive period. We are asking for extra effort. And so this next request is vitally important – on any occasion that your socialising with others, whether that is going out for drinks or dinner, visiting someone at home or even going shopping somewhere, that might be crowded, please take an LFD test before you go, and if it is positive, do not go. Instead, get a PC test and self isolate as you wait for the result.

"Please continue to wear face coverings on public transport, in shops and when moving around in hospitality settings. This remains a legal requirement but it is also a vital protection. A study published just last week, suggested that face coverings may reduce the risk of transmission by over 50 per cent."

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