JOHN Swinney has said ministers are no longer trying to suppress Covid infections to their lowest levels as he signalled a change of approach towards tackling the pandemic.

The Deputy First Minister told MSPs today that the roll out of the vaccination programme has shifted the strategy on dealing with the crisis.

"An effective and sustainable response to the pandemic will lay the foundations to the sort of recovery we want to see," he said adding that, as the First Minister set out yesterday, the rise in cases had caused "real concern". 

He went on to tell Holyrood's Covid-19 Recovery Committee: "However, it is important to note the vaccination is significantly weakening the link between high numbers of cases and serious harms to people's health. That is why the Scottish Government aim in controlling Covid at this stage in the pandemic is different from previous stages.

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"We are no longer seeking to suppress Covid to the lowest possible level. Now that we have vaccinations the restrictions required to suppress Covid could not be justified.

"Given that those restrictions cause serious harms of their own."

He went on to say that instead the government were seeking to suppress the virus in a way which allows the country to recovery and rebuild the future. 

"We need children to go to school and all of to be able to socialise and live more freely," he said.

According to the figures released today, 6400 new cases of Covid-19 reported were reported in the last 24 hours.

Some 17 more people had died following a positive test. A total of 624 people were in hospital yesterday with recently confirmed Covid, including 55 people in intensive care.

There were a total of 61,410 new tests for Covid that reported results - 11.1% of these were positive.

Some 4,111,513 people have received the first dose of the Covid vaccination and 3,699,250 have received their second dose.

The First Minister yesterday announced plans for Scotland to introduce a vaccine passport for people going to large scale indoor and outdoors events including nightclubs and some football matches.

Swinney, who is also Covid Recovery Secretary, told MSPs the introduction of vaccine passports in Scotland aims to "reduce the danger" of fresh coronavirus restrictions. He said strict rules may have to be reintroduced if the take up of vaccines is not increased. 

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser asked about the reasons behind the vaccine passport move. 

Swinney said: “The primary purpose of the policy proposal that was set out by the First Minister is to try to strengthen the resistance to the virus by maximising compliance with the measures that we know will have the greatest impact in trying to stem the prevalence of serious illness as a consequence of people contracting the virus."

He added: "The purpose of the move is to maximise resistance within the population and to reduce the danger that we have to impose any further restrictions in the future, which government is clearly very keen to make sure is not the case.”

Swinney said the approach "has the potential" to boost uptake as well as incentivising individuals to get vaccinated, particularly among younger age groups.

He said: "What we have to balance that against is the likelihood that unless we take action to further improve vaccination levels, we may find ourselves having to take action at a later stage, which could potentially lead to the application of further restrictions, and the government is keen to enlist the support and participation of members of the public in helping us to avoid it getting to that position. 

"We've looked at the balance of evidence on this question, and come to the conclusion that this would be an effective way of trying to essentially strengthen that population-wide resistance to the virus by maximising the uptake of vaccination."

Under the Scottish Government's plans, certificates would be introduced later this month for nightclubs and adult entertainment venues, unseated indoor live events with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor live events for more than 4000 people and any events with more than 10,000 people.

The wider hospitality sector, such as pubs and bars, would not be affected.

However, this will be kept under review.

Children and people with particular medical conditions would also be exempt.
MSPs will vote on the move next week.