Covid passes: Senedd members vote to expand scheme to cinemas and theatres

Senedd members will debate and vote on plans to introduce Covid passes in theatres, cinemas and concert halls from Monday November 15. Credit: PA

People who want to visit cinemas, concert halls and theatres in Wales will have to prove they have had two vaccine doses or a negative lateral flow test, from Monday 15.

Welsh politicians voted to expand the current Covid pass scheme on Tuesday evening, with 39 for and 15 votes against.

The passes are already in use in nightclubs and for certain large events. Unlike vaccine passports used in some other countries, individuals do not have to be double-jabbed to get a Covid pass.

The proposal was met with opposition from some Senedd Members, citing issues of equality and effectiveness in reducing the amount of Covid cases. A number of protesters against the plans also gathered in Cardiff Bay during the vote.

Protestors against Covid passes congregated outside the Senedd with placards and signs.

Speaking after the vote, Health Minister 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.

"We will continue to work with the sectors who are implementing the scheme to best support them."

COVID passes are already introduces at nightclubs in Wales. Credit: PA IMAGES

When the original scheme was voted on last month, the plan came close to being rejected when Conservatives, Plaid Cymru and the sole Liberal Democrat member joined forces to oppose it.Labour, which forms the Welsh Government, is the largest party in the Welsh parliament but doesn’t have a majority of seats in the chamber. If the other parties put aside their differences, votes will be tied and in that situation the Llywydd, or Presiding Officer, has to vote against change or for further debate.

Last month the Welsh Government proposal only went ahead when a single Conservative member failed to register his vote.

Plaid Cymru will vote in favour of increasing the use of COVID passes. Credit: Ben Birchall/ PA

In the Senedd last week, Plaid Cymru's Rhun ap Iorwerth acknowledged that the opposition parties had failed to block the original plan which has changed the context.He said: "So in that context I'm sure myself and the group will support the extension of those passes, because it's clear that we need to do more. I certainly don't want to see another lockdown; I don't think anyone wants to see another lockdown.

"So, we must put measures in place to keep people safe as they go about their daily lives in as normal a way as possible."The Conservatives will continue to oppose the use of Covid passes.Speaking ahead of the debate, the party’s health spokesperson Russell George said: "Our first duty as Members of the Senedd – as legislators – is to make good law and strike down bad law. There are numerous ethical and equality issues with vaccine passports, and Welsh Conservatives will not be supporting their expansion. “Alongside issues with civil liberties, the Labour Government have failed to provide any evidence that vaccine passports limit the spread of the virus or increase uptake of the vaccine. Meanwhile, the loophole of using self-certified tests is simply non-sensical as they can easily be circumvented. “Given this, there’s nothing to support the assertion that vaccine passports in any way meet their objective. Therefore, the First Minister should drop them altogether, let alone his threat to expand them, especially in light of falling case numbers. “Should Mark Drakeford pursue this damaging path, then I urge all MSs, of whatever party, to do their duty and block this bad law.”

The Liberal Democrat MS Jane Dodds has been steadfast in her opposition to the use of passes on civil liberty grounds. Credit: PA IMAGES

The Liberal Democrat MS Jane Dodds has also said she will vote against the extension.

Commenting ahead of the vote, she said: "The Welsh Government is already breaking trust by expanding the scheme despite not presenting any evidence of their effectiveness in reducing case numbers.

“Our view remains that the system is both illiberal and unworkable. Recent leaked evidence from the UK Government continues to demonstrate that in addition to concerns over civil liberties, the scheme may be counterproductive, pushing people from larger venues into poorly ventilated smaller venues.

“I am also extremely concerned over the financial impact of the scheme on an industry that is already struggling to deal with the fallout of the pandemic. Community theatres and cinemas have repeatedly raised their concerns over the financial impact of the extension of the scheme, which have not been adequately addressed.”