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Stormont ministers to consider proposals for mandatory Covid passports for Northern Ireland

A modelling paper says even Covid-19 passports may not prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

Updated: 14.10

STORMONT MINISTER ARE set to consider proposals for enforcing mandatory Covid-19 passports for Northern Ireland from December 13.

It is understood recommendations from Health Minister Robin Swann have made it on to the agenda for Wednesday afternoon’s meeting of the powersharing administration.

In order for the matter to be put forward for decision, the two main parties – the DUP and Sinn Fein – had to agree to having it placed on the agenda.

There had been some uncertainty on Wednesday morning about whether the DUP, which is sceptical about the passport proposal, would allow the move.

But the party signed off on the agenda, with Swann’s recommendations included, prior to the 1pm meeting.

Swann wants to introduce Covid certification in a range of settings across the broad hospitality sector.

Modelling paper

A modelling paper from health officials presented to the Executive ahead of the meeting warned passports may not be enough to suppress rapidly increasing Covid case numbers, which have surged 23% in a week, and that “more severe restrictions” may need to be considered in mid-December to avoid hospitals being overwhelmed.

The PA news agency understands Swann is proposing that passports are used to gain entry to nightclubs, hospitality premises that serve food and/or drink, cinemas, theatres and conferences halls.

Covid certificates would also be needed to access indoor events with 500 or more attendees where some or all of the audience is not normally seated.

They would be required for outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees where some or all of the audience is not normally seated.

They would also be mandatory at all events of 10,000 or more attendees whether the audience is seated or not.

Swann is proposing that regulations needed for the law change come into effect on November 29, with a 14-day grace period prior to becoming enforceable on December 13.

Under the proposals, people wishing to gain entry to the venues would need to demonstrate evidence of Covid-19 vaccination, a negative lateral flow test result, or proof of a coronavirus infection within the previous six months.

The DUP has the power to potentially veto the move and a number of high-profile party members have already voiced opposition.

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However, they could also vote against the measure, or formally register their concern, without blocking its introduction.

Some prominent DUP members – including MP Sammy Wilson, current Agriculture Minister Edwin Poots and former economy minister Paul Frew – have heavily criticised the proposal.

embedded263203998 DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he hopes for consensus on the issue Credit: PA

When asked by reporters at Stormont on Tuesday evening whether he would deploy the veto, party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: “I favour a consensus approach and what I want to see is a consensus reached on this.

“That’s why we will work with the Minister of Health to see if we can come up with solutions that work, solutions that actually deliver in terms of easing the pressures on our hospitals at this time.”

Swann’s proposals come amid escalating pressures on the region’s beleaguered health system.

Covid-19 transmission rates have soared in recent weeks, particularly among young people.

Making certification a legal entry requirement for hospitality venues has been credited with driving up vaccination rates among young people in the Irish Republic.

Sinn Fein, the SDLP and Alliance Party have all signalled they will back the proposal from Ulster Unionist minister Swann.

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