Publication - Minutes

Equality and Human Rights Roundtable: domestic covid status certification - meeting note 2 June 2021

Published: 21 Jun 2021
Date of meeting: 2 Jun 2021

Note of a meeting held to discuss the possible domestic use of covid status certificates and the equality, human rights and ethical issues.

Published:
21 Jun 2021
Equality and Human Rights Roundtable: domestic covid status certification - meeting note 2 June 2021

Attendees and apologies

Scottish Government

  • Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, Mr Yousaf
  • Minister for Equalities and Older People, Ms McKelvie
  • Professor Jason Leitch, National Clinical Director
  • Richard Foggo, Director, Covid Public Health Directorate
  • David Caesar, Deputy Chief Medical Officer
  • Marion McCormack, Deputy Director, Covid Ready Society
  • Richard Walsh, Team Leader, Major Events and Themed Years

Stakeholders

  • Bruce Adamson, Commissioner, Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland
  • Barbara Bolton, Head of Legal and Policy, Scottish Human Rights Commission (SHRC)
  • Gary Christie, Head of Policy, Scottish Refugee Council
  • Heather Fisken, Interim Director, Inclusion Scotland
  • Lindsay Graham, Chair, Poverty and Inequality Commissioner
  • Frances Hume, Development Officer, Interfaith Scotland
  • Rami Ousta, CEO, BEMIS
  • Emma Ritch, Executive Director, Engender
  • Adam Stachura, Head of Policy and Communications, Age Scotland
  • Vic Valentine, Manager, Equality Network, Scottish Trans Alliance
  • John Wilkes, Head of Scotland, Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

Others

  • Katherine May, Senior Policy Manager, Covid Ready Society
  • Xavier Villa, Policy Officer, Covid Ready Society
  • Florence Oulds, Policy and Communications Officer, Covid Ready Society
  • Lisa Cordaro, Communication Support, Stellar Comms

Items and actions

Introduction and purpose of the roundtable                          

The Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, Mr Yousaf welcomed all attendees and explained that the focus of the Roundtable was to discuss the possible domestic use of Covid Status Certificates and the equality, human rights and ethical issues.  

The Cabinet Secretary confirmed that no decisions on domestic certification had been taken and welcomed open discussion today, not only around the issues, but also exploring whether there were any mitigations that could be considered.

The Cabinet Secretary invited the Minister for Equalities and Older People, Ms McKelvie, to comment. The Minister stressed that the Roundtable was an opportunity  to hear stakeholders’ thoughts and expert advice before making any decisions.

Framing of the discussion        

Policy proposals

Officials provided some background context to domestic certification. Scotland is not alone in considering their use, other countries have  considered some form of domestic certification, such as the Green Pass in Israel, Coronapas in Denmark, and the EU Digital COVID certificate. UK Government have been considering domestic Certification and Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for Cabinet, discussed certification at the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee on Thursday 27 May, but confirmed that no decisions have been made.

The Scottish Government has also been considering whether there may be a role in certification in a targeted approach, limiting certification to some large, planned events with a high risk of transmission.

Other approaches being considered include an approach based on learning from our current Gateway Events or perhaps a model where other measures such as non-pharmaceutical interventions play a role alongside other indicators in deciding on a case by case basis if events can go ahead.

Officials emphasised that public services were not within the scope of domestic certification and the only areas currently being considered are high risk settings such as major events, festivals and larger venues.

Public health rational

Clinicians spoke to two potential components of Covid Status Certification:

Vaccination status

If vaccine data was used it would provide a reasonable indicator of the reduction of risk. We are still learning about the extent to which vaccines reduce transmission.

Testing status

We have two large scale testing technologies available in Scotland PCR and LFD which are used in different ways and tell us different things. At present, we do not have large scale testing capacity for antibody testing (immunity response).

Overall, the lower prevalence of the virus, the smaller the public health benefit of domestic certification. At high prevalence, transmission would still occur at large events even with certification in place, because although vaccines offer high levels of protection they are not 100% effective and testing technologies have a margin of error which can produce false negatives. It is appropriate to consider testing in addition to vaccination status in order to minimise transmission risks.

Open discussion                                    

Stakeholders welcomed engagement on this important topic and were generally in agreement that the specific policy proposals were helpful in narrowing the scope. Attendees were also generally supportive of the Scottish Government’s more cautious approach to domestic certification.

The emerging themes from the discussion were around:

  • the overall value or not of certification and the potential impact on public behaviours and the relationship with non-pharmaceutical interventions
  • clarity would be required on what certification could and more importantly could not be used for to ensure that the policy intention is clear
  • the possibility of certification being used beyond the policy intention by business and third parties to permit or deny access to services or products
  • the importance of not understating human rights and children’s rights considerations
  • consideration of exemptions, both who they would apply to and how they would impact the efficacy of certification as an intervention
  • working in partnership with stakeholders to produce clear guidance and public communications
  • the use, handling, storage and sharing of data, particularly in reference to those with protected characteristics
  • potential data flow and interoperability issues which could compromise certification verification
  • the potential for certification to be used as a tool to exert coercive control             

Next steps and close                                                                     

The Cabinet Secretary thanked everyone for their attendance and participation and agreed that the Scottish Government will continue to engage and take a cautious approach to domestic certification.