Northern Ireland news

Robin Swann says vaccine passports should be limited to large events

Health Minister Robin Swann. Picture by Kelvin Boyes, Press Eye, Press Association
David Young, Press Association

Vaccine passports in Northern Ireland should be limited to international travel and large events, the Health Minister has said.

Robin Swann said he would not be supportive of using vaccine certifications for gaining access to hospitality providers or close-contact service businesses.

A weekly health briefing by Mr Swann and senior health officials yesterday also heard that the north's first consignment of Moderna vaccine was not now expected until June.

The head of Northern Ireland's vaccine rollout programme, Patricia Donnelly, said "modest amounts" of Moderna were expected in June. She said they would mainly be used for younger people.

In regard to the relatively high incidence rate of the virus recently recorded in the Derry City and Strabane district council area, Mr Swann said the increase had plateaued and was not at the level where consideration of localised restrictions would be required.

The minister also raised "concern" about the disparity in the pace of vaccine rollout between Northern Ireland and the Republic but he expressed confidence that the programme south of the border would catch up in the coming months.

Last week, First Minister Arlene Foster raised the possibility of Northern Ireland participating in UK trials on using vaccine passports to allow people to return to large events.

Mr Swann said he was keen to establish whether that approach would work in the north.

"What the First Minister was referring to are some of the trials that have been taken in regards to large-scale venues, large-scale events, actually seeing activities happening without social distancing," he said.

"So they are, I suppose, trials for very specific types of events in the next step in regard to easements at a UK-wide level.

"We would be keen to see if that's something that could work in Northern Ireland.

"But the utilisation of Covid vaccine passports to access hospitality or close-contact services is not something that sits comfortably with me."

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