Northern Ireland news

Covid certification scheme begins in Northern Ireland

The scheme will see people asked for proof of vaccination or a negative test result to gain entry to some venues.
Jonathan McCambridge, PA

Northern Ireland’s Covid certification system has come into effect, Health Minister Robin Swann has confirmed.

The scheme will see people asked for proof of vaccination or a negative test result to gain entry to some venues.

Last week, Mr Swann announced that unlicensed premises such as cafes and coffee shops will be exempt from the rule at this stage.

There will also be no enforcement of the regulations, through fines for non-compliance, until December 13.

Another Stormont Minister, Nichola Mallon, said she has written to the Department of Health to seek clarification as to when the certification system will be rolled out to other hospitality settings.

In a statement on Monday, a department spokesman said: “The Department of Health can confirm that Covid certification regulations will now be made and commenced today, Monday November 29, rather than being laid in draft form only.

“Premises covered by the regulations will be required to comply from today but there will be a grace period without any enforcement up to December 13.”

Mr Swann told the media that the regulations will be debated in the Assembly.

“We have been clear that the changes that we have made in regard to Covid certification will be debated in the House,” he said.

“We expect regulations to be laid today.

“There were a number of changes in regard to prioritisation at the end of last week and how those would actually be brought forward.

“That was following intensive engagement with the sector and with stakeholders in regard to where they could be utilised first.

“They (the regulations) are starting today in hospitality but not enforced for another fortnight.

“My intention is to have them debated on and voted on within the Assembly.”

Infrastructure Minister Ms Mallon said her party, the SDLP, has been calling for Covid certification for some months, “not because we want to do it, but because we believe that we have to do it in terms of minimising the risk in a number of settings”.

She added: “The Executive did agree to the rollout of Covid certification in the hospitality sector. The Health Minister informed other ministers on Friday that he will be taking a phased approach to that as he works through some of the operational issues.

“As an Executive we agreed the rollout of Covid certification across a number of settings, including cafes.

“I have asked the Department of Health for specific briefing on that so that I am very clear in terms of what we need to do next and when we are able to do it.”

The regulations are mandatory in licensed premises, including venues operating a “bring your own” alcohol facility.

Covid certification will also be required at nightclubs, cinemas, theatres and conference halls.

Earlier this month, four of the five Stormont Executive parties voted in favour of the scheme proposed by Mr Swann.

DUP ministers voted against it, describing the initiative as a “distraction” that would have marginal impact.

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