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Covid-19 passport status welcomed by Inverness businesses after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announces that the current system for entry to some venues will continue unchanged – people will also be allowed to enter venues by showing a recent negative lateral flow test result regardless of vaccination status

By Ian Duncan

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Getting the vaccine.
Getting the vaccine.

City leaders have welcomed this week’s news that people will be allowed to enter venues by showing a recent negative lateral flow test result – regardless of Covid vaccination status.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on Tuesday that the current Covid passport system for entry to some venues will continue unchanged for the time being.

There had been fears among hospitality providers that a mooted extension requiring people to prove their vaccination status for entry into the likes of pubs and restaurants would put many customers off.

Bruce MacGregor, who runs MacGregor’s Bar in Academy Street, said: “I think coming up to Christmas, as an industry, we are probably quite delighted.

“It’s a double-edged sword because the (infection) figures are going up, but this is the middle ground. Using the tests saying people are negative is the halfway house that has to be reached.”

He acknowledged, however, that it was important to avoid another lockdown and added: “We are certainly not out of the woods yet.”

Billy McKechnie, who runs near neighbour the Rose Street Foundry, also welcomed the news that the passport requirement would not be extended.

He said: “It’s going to be good for the trade and it’s a good way to approach it because you can take a test that shows you are negative.”

Mike Smith, manager of Inverness Business Improvement District (BID), said: “BID and the city centre businesses are delighted by this announcement to reject any further restrictions being imposed on the hospitality trade.

“These businesses have gone through a catastrophic 20 months, and still face a tough few months ahead until spring 2022. They just cannot afford increased disruption and cost leading up to and over the crucial Christmas trading period.”

David Richardson, the Federation of Small Businesses’ Highlands and Islands development manager, said: “Ripples of relief will be spreading throughout the Highlands’ many small, independent hospitality and leisure firms at this news.

“We know from our survey work how worried the owners of some of the businesses hit hardest by the pandemic – small cafés, restaurants and so on – were that an extension of the scheme would have put pressure on their staff and driven up costs, undermining their plans for the festive period.

“However, the First Minister is clearly right – citizens, government and businesses of all sizes have roles to play in keeping this virus under control, which is why we are urging all smaller firms to look again at the current Covid rules and ask themselves if they’re playing their parts to the full.”

Jamie Halcro Johnston, a Highlands and Islands MSP and shadow business minister, said: “I welcome the decision not to extend the vaccine passport scheme at this point, but the continued uncertainty around the Scottish Government’s intentions presents huge practical challenges to our hospitality sector, and comes at an important time of year for local businesses.”

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