People will have to show an NHS Covid pass to enter nightclubs and attend many events in Wales from next month, the first minister, has announced.
Mark Drakeford encouraged people to work from home wherever possible and to get fully vaccinated if they were not already. He said enforcement of measures such as wearing face coverings in indoor public places and on public transport would be increased.
Wales is at alert level 0 and will remain so for the next three weeks, but the Labour-led government said Covid case numbers were very high.
Drakeford said: “Across Wales, coronavirus cases have risen to very high levels over the summer as more people have been gathering and meeting. Tragically, more people are dying from this terrible virus.
“The very strong advice we have from our scientific advisers is to take early action to prevent infections increasing further. The last thing we want is further lockdowns and for businesses to have to close their doors once again. That’s why we must take small but meaningful action now to control the spread of the virus and reduce the need for tougher measures later.”
The Welsh government has called the scheme an NHS Covid pass, rather than vaccination passport. The requirement to show a pass will come into force from 11 October. All over-18s will need to have a pass to enter:
Indoor, non-seated events for more than 500 people, such as concerts or conventions.
Outdoor non-seated events for more than 4,000 people.
Any setting or event with more than 10,000 people in attendance.
People who are fully vaccinated in Wales can already download the NHS Covid pass to share their vaccine status and show if they have had a negative lateral flow test result in the last 48 hours.
Drakeford said: “We have high levels of the virus in our communities and while our fantastic vaccination programme has helped stop thousands more people from becoming seriously ill or dying, the pressure on the NHS is increasing. We hope introducing the requirement to show a Covid pass will help keep venues and events – many of which have only recently started trading again – open.
“Showing a Covid pass is already part of our collective effort to keep businesses open, with some major events such as the successful Green Man festival using it. We will continue to work closely with all businesses affected to ensure a smooth introduction and operation of this system.”
Drakeford rejected the idea that the scheme was a vaccination passport in all but name, pointing out it was possible to get a pass by taking a lateral flow test. He said: “They are clearly not vaccine passports, you can get a Covid pass without being vaccinated. It avoids those difficult ethical issues of people who cannot be vaccinated.”
He said it was possible that falsifying a Covid pass could be made a specific criminal offence: “We will consider over the next few days whether to introduce a special offence of knowingly and deliberately falsifying a Covid pass.”
The Welsh Liberal Democrats described Drakeford’s decision to introduce Covid passes in Wales as disappointing, claiming it was an example of government overreach that could set a worrying precedent.
The party’s leader, Jane Dodds, said: “They are medical ID cards in all but name and Welsh Liberal Democrats will lead the fight against their introduction.
“The introduction of the cards would mean that for the first time you will be asked to provide your private medical data to a stranger to enjoy certain freedoms in our society.”