Nicola Sturgeon Apology over Covid Passport App Launch
Posted On October 5, 2021
Scotland’s first minister has apologised for the botched introduction of the country’s vaccine passport app.
The app – which allows people to show they have been double vaccinated – was launched just hours before the scheme came into effect.
But many people were unable to access their records through the app, leading to several venues not asking for proof of vaccination over the weekend.
Nicola Sturgeon acknowledged that this had caused “extreme frustration”.
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, she added: “I apologise for that”.
The first minister insisted that the app itself – which was developed by a Danish firm that was paid about £600,000 by the Scottish government – was not the problem.
She explained: “Essentially the high level of demand after the launch of the app – combined with an error in one part of the NHS system – meant that information wasn’t being sent quickly enough from the NHS system to the app.
“This also, for a period, caused problems for those requesting paper copies of vaccination certificates, or seeking to download a PDF.”
The app went live shortly after 17:00 last Thursday, with the vaccine passport scheme being introduced at 05:00 the next morning.
However, the government had already announced two days earlier that the scheme would not actually be enforced until 18 October – which opposition parties and industry groups said at the time suggested it was not yet ready.
Questions have also been asked about why the Scottish government evidently failed to anticipate and prepare for large numbers of people downloading and attempting to use the app, and why it decided to create its own app rather than sharing the one that is in use in England and Wales.
Ms Sturgeon said improvements to remedy the problem were made to the NHS system on Friday evening, with the “initial backlog” of people waiting to access their vaccine status being cleared by lunchtime on Saturday.
She said the government would continue to monitor the performance of the app, and to “engage with businesses and sectors subject to the requirement for Covid certification”.
Aberdeen FC announced ahead of their match with Celtic on Sunday that they would not be checking the vaccination status of fans.
But Ms Sturgeon said both Hearts and Rangers had managed to check about 20% of their crowds despite saying they would not turn anyone away who was unable to provide evidence of their vaccination status.
The first minister also said she continued to believe that vaccine passports are a “proportionate way of encouraging people to get vaccinated, and also of helping large events and night-time hospitality to keep operating during a potentially difficult winter.”
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said the scheme had been “an utter shambles from day one” and a “complete embarrassment”.
He added: “The app was delayed and only came into force less than 12 hours before the scheme began. It was instantly a disaster – people couldn’t find the app, they couldn’t get the app to open, there were issues with facial recognition.
“People are still putting in all of their details correctly and cannot get their vaccine passport up on the app – there continue to be issues days on.
“It seems the government did not foresee high demand for an app that they want everyone who goes to gigs, football or nightclubs to download.”
Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, said the rollout of the app had been a “predictable disaster”, and accused Ms Sturgeon of “making this up as you go along”.
He said: “This is the consequence of an arrogant government forcing through its ill-thought-through plans despite concerns from the public, public health experts and businesses.”
It comes as Scotland recorded a further 21 Covid-related deaths and 2,056 new cases of the virus.
A total of 998 people are in hospital with recently confirmed Covid-19, of whom 65 are in intensive care.
The number of new daily cases has reduced by more than 20% over the past week, and is now 60% lower than at the peak of the latest wave a month ago.
The most significant declines have been among the 15 to 24 age group, with the number of children under the age of 14 also falling dramatically in recent weeks.
Ms Sturgeon said the number of people in hospital wards or ICU units with Covid has also been falling over the past fortnight, but warned that the pressure on the health service was still intense.
She added: “As we head further into autumn and then winter, we know that people meeting indoors more often or travelling by public transport rather than walking, for example, will create the conditions for the virus to circulate.
“There is a risk that this will lead to a further rise in cases – and that would, of course, put further pressure on the NHS.
“So for all the improvement we have seen – and collectively helped achieve – at least until we are well through the winter, we must remember that the overall position remains fragile and potentially very challenging.”