COVID Passes will now be required in cinemas, theatres and concert halls across Wales after the Senedd voted to extend the scheme.
The Passes are already required to be shown by anyone who attends a nightclub or a large event like a major sports match.
When the scheme was launched a few weeks ago, the initial vote was carried out amid chaotic scenes, with one member – who was trying to vote remotely while attending the Conservative Party conference – unable to cast his ballot.
By comparison, today’s vote on extending the scheme was a more sedate affair, and passed mainly because Plaid Cymru members – who had opposed the government’s handling of the original proposals – this time voted in favour.
The Senedd voted by 39 members to 15 to extend the scheme. There were no abstentions.
But despite the more straightforward nature of today’s vote, there were still criticisms in the Senedd from members who opposed the Covid Pass scheme.
Darren Millar, of the Welsh Conservatives, said his party had warned the scheme “would set a dangerous precedent, and it gives me no pleasure today to say that we were right”.
He added: “Vaccine passports are not a route out of restrictions, they are restrictions. They should not be expanded into other premises when they should never have been introduced or put on the table in the first place.
“Vaccine passports are coercive, ineffective and anti-business; they limit our freedoms but they do not limit the spread of Covid-19.”
Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds was also opposed to extending the scheme. Her party has long criticised Covid Passes, and she said today the government had “failed to produce the evidence to prove that they are working”.
But there were many members who spoke in favour of the scheme, including Labour MS Joyce Watson, who said her constituents had reported feeling safer since the Covid Pass scheme was introduced.
“If everyone at a venue is either vaccinated or Covid-negative, then it has to be safer for all of us to go there,” she told the Senedd. “That’s what people are telling me—people that won’t normally go out are saying to me, ‘Actually, we will feel safer now’.
“They’re good for businesses as well—not something I’ve actually heard you say—because the disease destroys economic confidence.
“But it’s not a cure. The vaccine passport does actually mean that it will be a cure for businesses, because people will have confidence in those businesses to go to those businesses. So, without these measures, fewer people will attend those venues, fewer people will attend those events, certainly the people that speak to me.”
After the vote, health minister Eluned Morgan said the Covid Pass scheme had produced positive feedback from businesses and event organisers.
“I am pleased the extension has been agreed today following the vote,” she added. “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.”
The new rules will be in force from Monday, November 15.