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Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 7°C
Liam McBurney
# covid pass
Politicians back mandatory Covid-19 certification regulations for Northern Ireland
Health Minister Robin Swann said the regulations were for the ‘overall protection of the people’.

IN THE NORTH, MLAs have been told that mandatory Covid certification is for the “overall protection of the people of Northern Ireland” as they backed the regulations.

Health Minister Robin Swann also issued a plea for unity over the messaging coming out of Stormont in the fight against Covid.

Following a Stormont debate which divided MLAs, the regulations were passed by 59 votes to 24.

The scheme, which requires people to prove Covid status to gain entry to a range of hospitality venues and large-attendance events, was introduced late last month with a two-week grace period to allow businesses to adjust to the new requirements.

Patrons wishing to access nightclubs, pubs, restaurants and other licensed premises will need to provide proof of vaccination or a negative lateral flow test result or evidence of a previous Covid-19 infection.

The same rules will apply for entry to large indoor and outdoor events, such as concerts and sporting events.

The Assembly discussed the regulations for several hours last night and returned today when Swann closed the debate and votes were cast.

He told MLAs: “I think we do need to come out of this with the communication coming from this place that we take these steps, sometimes reluctantly, sometimes we may be opposed to them, but they are taken for the overall protection of the people of Northern Ireland and the support of our health service in challenging times.

“It is not an easy subject in regard to Covid regulations.

“The challenges that are faced by our population, by our health service in what is a global pandemic aren’t easy either, but we have come through worse and we will come through this as a stronger health service because of the changes we have needed to evolve.

“We will also come through it stronger as a society.”

Swann added: “I would ask for those who seek division over this issue to look to what we can achieve when we pull together rather than looking for further division and we tackle Covid as a united society in Northern Ireland, doing everything that we can and everything that we know works.”

The DUP opposed the scheme at the Executive and voted against it following the Assembly debate.

But the Health Minister said the DUP First Minister Paul Givan had already warned that a “storm is coming” with the expected rapid spread of the Omicron variant in Northern Ireland.

He told MLAs: “You are better preparing for a storm when it is not raining, rather than waiting until you are up to your knees in water.

“That is what the purpose of these regulations, as part of a wider package, intends to do.”

Speaking earlier in the debate, DUP MLA Pam Cameron said she was disappointed by the decision of Swann to “ignore the lack of crossbench support for this policy prior to its becoming active”.

“And that the Health Minister chose to ignore that lack of crossbench unity, instead deciding to plough ahead with this particular piece of legislation,” she told MLAs.

“Such affirmative votes were held in Scotland and Wales so I ask why was the minister so reluctant to allow this House its place in terms of its policy.”

Press Association
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