Northern Ireland news

Hospitality industry willing to consider proposal for 'vaccine passports'

Vaccination rates in the Republic have increased since the introduction of vaccine passports

THE GROUP representing part of the north's hospitality sector has said it will consider proposals for vaccine passes similar to those in the Republic.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has proposed people show proof of being double vaccinated before entering hospitality and entertainment venues.

He said today that he had written to the first and deputy first minister about the proposal, arguing for a "significant change to the executive’s approach to the vaccination programme and managing the Covid response" ahead of winter.

The Foyle MP cited how vaccination rates had increased south of the border and in other parts of Europe after the introduction of so-called vaccine passports.

Health Minister Robin Swann has warned that current transmission levels could see the closure of accident and emergency departments and interruptions to ambulance cover.

Mr Eastwood said there was a choice between increasing vaccinations or introducing restrictions.

He said another period of extended lockdown would be "devastating for people, their mental health and for businesses and their staff".

"The example from the south is that this will increase uptake of the vaccination programme, create safe indoor spaces for those who have committed to keep each other safe by getting their vaccine and it will provide comfort to those working in the hospitality or retail sectors that they will not be put at risk in the interests of driving profits," he said.

“Our first priority must be keeping people safe and reducing pressure on our health service."

A spokesperson for Alliance said the party was "open to the use of covid certificates or vaccine passports in some limited circumstances", with appropriate safeguards for those who can't be vaccinated.

They said Alliance supported the retention of facemasks and other existing restrictions.

"As with everything, there is a balance of rights to be considered, and this includes thinking of those who are vaccinated, but remain limited in how far they can interact with society," the spokesperson said.

Colin Neill of Hospitality Ulster said his organisation would "give consideration" to the proposal.

He urged the Executive to call a special meeting to discuss Covid's impact on hospitality, which he said was the north's fourth largest employment sector and had endured "punitive restrictions" since the pandemic began.

"We are always open to new ideas but we'd obviously like to hear the detail first," he said.

"At present it just a one line proposal but we'll give consideration to it if and when further details emerge."


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