The Welsh government’s controversial plans to introduce a mandatory Covid pass for nightclubs and major sporting events will continue after the To send supported the regime by the narrowest margins.
The Labor-led government has argued that the pass, which was due to go into effect on Monday, was necessary to bring down worrying rates of Covid-19 infection, especially among young people in Wales.
They claimed the program would ease pressure on the NHS and help keep premises such as clubs open this winter. They accuse those who oppose it of “blatant irresponsibility”.
On Tuesday evening, the Tories, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats all voted against the move, but the plan was passed by 28 to 27 votes.
Announcing the pass last month, Premier of Wales Mark Drakeford said he was determined to take stronger action, sooner, than the UK government in England, calling for measures that are part of the Boris Johnson’s “plan B”, such as a Covid pass and working from home, were in his “plan A”.
Drakeford dismissed the idea that the program was a vaccination passport in everything but the name, pointing out that it would be possible to get the Welsh pass by passing a lateral flow test.
A crowd of a few hundred people, some protesting the scheme – and some anti-vaccines – gathered outside the Senedd in Cardiff Bay ahead of the debate.
Health Minister Eluned Morgan said Covid cases were on the rise across Wales, particularly among young people, with rates for those under 25 of around 1,000 per 100,000 people. Morgan said these are the people most likely to go to places such as nightclubs. She said keeping those sites open had not been an easy decision in light of such high Covid rates. “We are facing some of the highest rates we have seen since the start of the pandemic. We have to do something to stop the turbo charge.
Morgan said the pressure on hospitals was steadily increasing. “There is a need to take early action to avoid longer-term damage. Scientists tell us to act early, to act now. Every day we hesitate, these rates are rising and we will put more pressure on the NHS. Not supporting this measure will be an act of blatant irresponsibility. “
Russell George, the shadow Welsh Conservative health minister, argued that the introduction of a vaccine ‘passport’ would lead to Wales becoming a checkpoint society.
Rhun ap Iorwerth, Plaid Cymru spokesperson for health and social services, said it was not clear how police could check to see if people were tampering with lateral flow tests and feared this would deter young people to get vaccinated.
Liberal Democrat Jane Dodds said she believed Covid’s passports were an “assault on liberty and liberty,” and added that the National Autistic Society had communicated her concerns to her.
The Night Time Industries Association (NTIA), which represents 100 sites in Wales, said the passes were “a significant obstacle” to its operations. He argued that operators could not afford the additional resources and logistical challenges that a Covid pass would create.
The Covid pass vote, in the Senedd on Tuesday, was itself criticized as controversial because a conservative MS was unable to vote due to an issue with his Zoom link.
NTIA Wales called for a new vote. “It is a democratic outrage that a member state which wanted to vote and which would have voted against the proposals, could not because of a simple technical error”, declared a spokesperson. “This mess will create even more uncertainty for our businesses.”