COVID passports could "backfire" by reducing vaccine uptake and exacerbating hesitancy in certain groups, such as young people, according to a leading behavioural psychologist.

Professor Stephen Reicher told MPs that if proof of vaccination became a requirement to attend sporting events or enter pubs and restaurants there was a risk it would increase distrust against the immunisation programme.

Prof Reicher, an expert in crowd behaviour at St Andrews University and a member of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE), was giving evidence to Westminster's All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus on the use of Covid passports domestically and for international travel.

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He said that while people "accept that it might not be unreasonable" to require international travellers to be fully vaccinated, the situation "gets more controversial when you go into the realm of things like going to a football game, getting into an event, going to the pub or a restaurant".

He said: “Young people see vaccines as in effect compulsory when you make them necessary to go to the pub, and again so do Black people…the danger is that we are alienating precisely those groups whose vaccine uptake isn’t as high and where we should doing more to engage with them."

HeraldScotland: Professor Stephen ReicherProfessor Stephen Reicher

There are currently no plans for vaccine passports for the hospitality industry in Scotland or elsewhere in the UK, but some European countries - such as Denmark - have rolled out a coronapas scheme which bars entry to pubs, restaurants and other non-essential public spaces unless people can show evidence of vaccination, a recent negative Covid test, or proof of having had the infection.

The EU is considering opening its holiday resorts from June to visitors - including Britons - who have had both vaccine doses at least two weeks before travel.

Sporting authorities, including the SPFL and FA, are also pushing for some sort of vaccine passport to enable stadiums to reopen at something closer to full capacity during the summer.

English Premier League executive director Bill Bush said Covid passports would not be a “magic wand”, but the alternative was restrictions in the form of social distancing and smaller crowds.

He said that current planning was for matches to be held at 17% to 18% capacity under Covid restrictions, but that unless this capacity can be increased “the economics of the commercial entertainment industries are completely destroyed.”

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Prof Reicher said the focus should be on ramping up the rate of vaccination and making public spaces as safe as possible from the virus.

He said: “Domestically, vaccine passports aren’t going to stop the possibility of a new lockdown – vaccinations will – so I come back to the point that if vaccine passports get in the way of vaccinations they don’t reduce, they increase, the probability of a new lockdown.

"But on top of that, it’s critical to make the point that vaccines on their own are not the whole story.

"Let’s not forget that it’s still only a quarter of the population who’ve had two vaccinations. Let’s not forget that there can still be circulation of the virus that can do a lot of harm and generate new variants which can undermine the vaccines - so we need to suppress infections.

“As we open up, it becomes ever more critical if people are infected that they self-isolate. Some people are still not self-isolating because they practically can’t do it.

"If you give people the support to do the right thing, they will, and for the life of me I cannot understand why we are spending £37 billion on test and trace and not spending the money necessary to do the simple thing [of helping people to self isolate].”

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Baroness Karren Brady, member of the APPG on Coronavirus, said: “Sadly serious questions remain over how Covid passports would work and how effective they would be, whether for domestic events or international travel.

“We still don’t know how long immunity from vaccines lasts, whether a streamlined digital system can be introduced in time for this summer and if it will include Covid test results.

“The UK government should work with the aviation and events industries to provide answers to these practical challenges.”

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It comes as the latest data shows that pace of first dose vaccinations has picked up in Scotland over the past seven days - although it still remains hugely outnumbered by the number of second vaccinations being administered to older and at-risk adults.

In the week to May 4, there have been 51,599 first doses compared to 32,110 the previous week.

HeraldScotland: Daily hospital admissions for Covid are now averaging fewer than 10 per day for the first time since early SeptemberDaily hospital admissions for Covid are now averaging fewer than 10 per day for the first time since early September

The number of second doses administered fell slightly, from 305,423 in the week ending April 27 to 245,360 last week.

To date, 62.4% of adults in Scotland have had a first dose compared to 29.7% who have had both doses.

Infections are continuing to decline, with 1314 new cases detected in the past seven days - down 17 per cent week-on-week.

Daily hospital admissions with Covid have also fallen below 10 per day for the first time this year, with Public Health Scotland data showing they were averaging 9.9 per day by April 27.