Call for Executive meeting after hospitality passports proposal

Call for Executive meeting after hospitality passports proposal

Vaccine passports for those entering hospitality venues must be discussed with stakeholders, Hospitality Ulster has warned .

The group, which represents Northern Ireland’s fourth largest industry called for a  special meeting of the Executive to discuss the Covid pandemic’s impact on hospitality and the “punitive restrictions” it has been been subject to since the pandemic began.

Chief executive Colin Neill said: “We are always open to new ideas but we’d obviously like to hear the detail first.”

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

With hospitals under extreme pressure and Covid cases still rising,  SDLP leader Colum Eastwood proposed that people in Northern Ireland should have to show proof of being double vaccinated before entering hospitality and entertainment venues.

‘Devastating for people’

The Republic of Ireland is already operating on those lines, with the requirement credited for a much higher uptake in the vaccine among 18-39 year-olds than in Northern Ireland.

Mr Eastwood, below, has 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.

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

Mr Eastwood said another extended lockdown would be “devastating for people, their mental health and for businesses and their staff”.

He added: “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

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

The Alliance party has already indicated it is “open to the use of covid certificates or vaccine passports in some limited circumstances”, with appropriate safeguards for those who can’t be vaccinated.

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