Ministers approve use of mandatory Covid vaccine passports in Northern Ireland

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Ministers Approve Use Of Mandatory Covid Vaccine Passports In Northern Ireland
DUP ministers opposed the move, but the other four Executive parties supported it. Photo: PA Images.
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By David Young, PA

Mandatory vaccine passports are set to be introduced in Northern Ireland after Stormont ministers voted by a majority to support the move.

It is understood that DUP ministers opposed Health Minister Robin Swann’s proposal at the Executive meeting on Wednesday.

However, the other four Executive parties – Sinn Féin, SDLP, Alliance and Mr Swann’s UUP – backed the move.

Mr Swann wants to see enforceable Covid certification in operation across a range of hospitality settings from December 13th.

Northern Ireland Minister of Health Robin Swann wants to introduce Covid passports in a range of settings (PA)

While the four DUP ministers voted against the proposal, the party did not deploy a cross-community voting mechanism that could have blocked the introduction of vaccine certification in the region.

The Department of Health is now set to produce a further paper detailing how the policy will be rolled out.

It is understood that Mr Swann has proposed that passports are used to gain entry to nightclubs, hospitality premises that serve food and/or drink, cinemas, theatres and conferences halls.

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Covid certificates would also be needed to access indoor events with 500 or more attendees where some or all of the audience is not normally seated.

(PA Graphics)

They would be required for outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees where some or all of the audience is not normally seated.

They would also be mandatory at all events of 10,000 or more attendees whether the audience is seated or not.

Mr Swann is proposing that regulations needed for the law change come into effect on November 29th, with a 14-day grace period prior to becoming enforceable on December 13th.

Under the proposals, people wishing to gain entry to the venues would need to demonstrate evidence of Covid-19 vaccination, a negative lateral flow test result, or proof of a coronavirus infection within the previous six months.

A Digital Covid Certificate Checker on a mobile phone is used to check the validity of a Covid passport in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA)

A modelling paper from health officials presented to the Executive ahead of Wednesday’s meeting warned passports may not be enough to suppress rapidly increasing Covid case numbers, which have surged 23 per cent in a week, and that “more severe restrictions” may need to be considered in mid-December to avoid hospitals being overwhelmed.

Mr Swann’s proposals come amid escalating pressures on the region’s beleaguered health system.

Covid-19 transmission rates have soared in recent weeks, particularly among young people.

Making certification a legal entry requirement for hospitality venues has been credited with driving up vaccination rates among young people in the Irish Republic.

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