Covid vaccine passport scheme to be considered in Northern Ireland

SDLP minister Nichola Mallon said it would help to create a ‘sustainable pathway out of the remaining restrictions’
Covid vaccine passport scheme to be considered in Northern Ireland

By Rebecca Black, PA

A Covid-19 vaccine passport scheme is set to be considered in Northern Ireland by Stormont ministers.

SDLP minister Nichola Mallon said such an initiative could create a “sustainable pathway out of the remaining restrictions”, and expressed frustration that it has not yet been taken forward.

Ministers are due to meet on Monday to look at the current social distancing rules and consider what mitigations could be introduced to change them.

Last week, deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said she retained human rights concerns around the use of vaccine certification but suggested it may be required for the “greater good”.

First Minister Paul Givan said he had concerns about requiring people to prove vaccination in order to gain entry to hospitality venues, noting that thousands of unvaccinated people would be denied access.

 

Stormont officials have been examining policy issues around using vaccine certification in Northern Ireland and assessing the logistical requirements of rolling out such a system.

Ms Mallon said she has raised the matter a “number of times” at the Executive.

“I know that the Health Minister (Robin Swann) shares my frustrations at the delay in getting this forward,” she told the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme.

“We have to be honest with ourselves, if we want to have a sustainable pathway out of the remaining restrictions, if we want to avoid further lockdown, if we want to protect our health service from unprecedented pressures as it goes into winter, then we need to look to introduce Covid passports.

“We know that the level of uptake in vaccines from the ages of 18-35 is lower here, and we know that when we look at the south that the introduction of Covid passports acts as an incentive for that age group.

“So for me, it is a no brainer and it’s actually very frustrating that we’re still sitting having this discussion and not getting down to making the decisions on it.”

Ms Mallon added: “The CMO (chief medical officer Michael McBride) and the CSA (chief scientific adviser Professor Ian Young) have provided advice to the Executive that said in terms of the remaining restrictions around social distancing for example, that needs to be mitigated and one of the mitigations is lateral flow tests but also Covid passports.

“The health advice is there, we need to, as an Executive, take a decision on this. We can’t be fudging or delaying any further.”

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