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DUP's Paul Frew says 'I will never have Covid vaccine certificate in my hand'

 Former economy minister Paul Frew has reacted angrily to the introduction of vaccine passports
Seanín Graham

MANDATORY vaccine passports are to be introduced in Northern Ireland after Stormont ministers backed the move - despite opposition within the DUP.

As Health Minister Robin Swann last night welcomed the Executive's endoresement former DUP Economy Minister Paul Frew reacted angrily saying: "I can tell you this, I will never have a domestic Covid vaccine certificate in my hand."

The MLA took to Twitter to voice his opposition to move that will see legal enforcement of Covid-19 certification entry requirements for nightclubs, bars, restaurants and a range of other settings from December 13.

He added: "I will fight against any discrimination against people due to medical history and status. When they are excluded I will be with them."

Ian Knox cartoon 17/11/21 

East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson has criticised the proposal which he said was developed by Mr Swann to "hide his own lack of planning" within the health system.

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

However, the DUP has called for a vote in the Assembly before the policy is introduced.

Earlier the health minister warned that as well as the certification "sustained actions" will be needed to tackle the surge in Covid-19 infections.

A "significant" increase in the use of face masks, more people working from home and increased social distancing will be among the measures required to drive down rates.

Latest figures show that 70 per cent of Covid hospital patients in Northern Ireland under the age of 50 are unvaccinated.

Nightclubs, pubs and restaurants, cinemas, theatres and conference halls will require proof of vaccination status to be introduced on November 29, with a 14 day grace period after which time fines will be issued to premises for breaches.

Mr Swann also called for the rollout of booster jabs to be "accelerated".

Responding to concerns from the hospitality industry, he said certification rollout is "not complicated".

A similar scheme has been in place in the Republic since July.

Meanwhile, The Irish News has learned the Belfast trust has paid almost £10,000 to a private bus company to transport staff for their booster jabs to the Royal Victoria Hospital - but the buses problems booking vaccine slots have left buses 'almost empty'.

Of 22,000 people employed by the trust only 174 staff have used the service.

In other Covid developments:

- The Elk nightclub in Toome has had its entertainment licence suspended after a teenage disco became a super spreader event, with more than 170 confirmed cases

- The Republic's Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan has warned people to avoid Christmas parties and socialising in the run-up to the festive season

- A Co Down man has been remanded in custody after being charged with threats to kill Robin Swann

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