Vote on 'Covid pass' plans for nightclubs and events in Wales set to be tied

There's a debate about whether people should have to show a pass to confirm that they've been vaccinated or have received a negative test result. Credit: PA Images

Welsh Government plans to introduce a compulsory Covid pass for people wanting to go to nightclubs and other events could be about to be thrown into disarray - a week before they were due to come into force.

A vote in the Senedd on changing the law is set to be tied after Plaid Cymru announced that it would vote against them.

Although Labour is by far the largest party in the Senedd, the 60 seats are evenly split with the opposition parties.

In the event of a tied vote, the Llywydd (Presiding Officer) Elin Jones is expected to back the status quo (i.e not introduce the scheme) or further debate.

The health minister said the scheme is an effort to avoid the need to close down late-night venues altogether if Covid cases become worse.

Mark Drakeford will need at least one vote from opposition parties to back the introduction of Covid-passes. Credit: PA Images

Senedd Members have been deciding today (Tuesday) whether or not to back the Welsh Government's plans to introduce Covid passes for entry to nightclubs and large events. 

If passed, the move will mean that here in Wales from 11 October, it will be compulsory for nightclubs and events to require people to show a pass to confirm either that they've been vaccinated or have received a negative test result.

Opening the debate in the Senedd, the health minister, Eluned Morgan said that the scheme was a least-worst option, allowing nightclubs and other venues to stay open even if serious Covid cases increase in coming months.

She told the Welsh Parliament that "when we know that the rates amongst those under 25 are around a thousand per hundred thousand people, and that this age group are the most likely to attend some of these venue, in particular nightclubs, we are taking these measures to support venues to stay open and enable events to continue taking place through a potentially very difficult and challenging autumn and winter.

"Keeping these venues open is not an easy decision. In the light of such high Covid rates. Now as we head into winter, it's vital that we all work together to keep Wales safe."

If the rules are passed, they would come into force from Monday 11 October. Credit: PA Images

The Conservative Shadow Health minister Russell George told MSs that "there is a real risk here that the implementation of Covid passes could be a complete disaster.

"In Scotland, we have seen the rollout being a disaster there. I don't use that word lightly, it has been a disaster there and the Labour Party Conference in Brighton was plagued with problems, we know that as well. The Welsh Government really should think again."

Plaid Cymru members had left their decision until today. Confirming that they would vote against the proposal, Rhun ap Iorwerth said he and colleagues were not opposed to the passes in principle, but were concerned that the Welsh Government had not answered serious questions about the practical implications.

He said: “Regrettably, the regulations proposed by Welsh Government today raise more questions than they provide answers.

"There is insufficient evidence and little detail on how it will work in practice. In particular, the rapid test loophole which represents a fudge on the part of the Government, makes the system open to exploitation.

“We’ve asked many questions and haven’t been given the assurances we’ve sought. And it’s for that reason that we feel unable to support these regulations today.

“We are not voting against because of issues of principle. We asked Welsh Government to withdraw this motion and made it clear we’d contribute to discussions on how something more robust could be brought forward, better evidenced, and with clarity on implication. That offer is still open."

Mark Drakeford has repeatedly insisted that the Welsh Covid pass scheme is not a vaccine passport.

When he announced the plan, he said: "It's clearly not a vaccine passport - you can get a Covid pass without being vaccinated" and that that difference avoids "difficult ethical issues" about people who cannot be vaccinated for various reasons.

For England, the UK Government decided against introducing vaccine passports but the Prime Minister has said they remain an option if the situation worsens.

Vaccine passports are being introduced in Scotland. 

Alert Level Zero: The Covid rules explained in Wales

Meeting indoors

From 6am on 7 August, will be no legal limits on the number of people who can meet, including in private homes, public places or at events.

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What businesses can reopen?

Any businesses currently still closed will be able to re-open. This includes nightclubs and other entertainment venues.

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What about self-isolating?

From midnight on 7 August, adults who are fully vaccinated and children and young people under the age of 18, will no longer need to isolate if they are identified as close conatcts of someone who has coronavirus.

This was announced by the First Minister last week.

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Social distancing

It's not yet clear whether or not the 'two-metre rule' under which businesses are obliged by law to ensure social distancing in the workplace will be dropped.

Welsh Government sources say that it is one of the final details being discussed.

In its announcement, the government says premises and workplaces will have "more flexibility" about which "reasonable measures they take" to minimise the risk of the virus.

"These should be tailored to their risk assessment and their specific circumstances".

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