Covid passports become compulsory in Northern Ireland

Covid passports become compulsory in Northern Ireland for anyone going to a pub, restaurant, cinema, theatre or sports event

  • Covid vaccine passports will be compulsory in Northern Ireland next month after ministers backed measure 
  • People will have to show vaccine status to enter nightclubs, pubs or restaurants from December 13 
  • DUP ministers voted against the proposal but Sinn Fein, SDLP, Alliance and UUP ministers backed it  
  • Health Minister Robin Swann said he was trying to avoid lockdowns and urged ministers ‘have to act’ 

So where else in the UK is making Covid passports compulsory? 

WALES

MPs in Wales have voted to extend controversial Covid passports to cinemas, theatres and concert halls. 

From November 15, entry to cinemas, theatres and concert halls has been regulated by the scheme after members of the Welsh Parliament dramatically approved the extension to mixed reaction. 

People were previously required to show they are fully vaccinated or have tested negative for the virus to enter nightclubs and similar venues since last month. 

The new law brought by the Labour government passed with 39 Members of the Senedd voting for and 15 against, with the Welsh Conservatives and Liberal Democrat Jane Dodds opposed.  

Officials insisted that the Covid passport was popular, with Health Minister Eluned Morgan saying the extension was designed to keep cinemas and theatres open over the winter months. 

SCOTLAND

Scotland’s Covid passport scheme could be extended to cover pubs, cinemas and theatres just weeks before Christmas , Nicola Sturgeon has admitted.

The First Minister told Holyrood that her administration will decide next week whether restrictions currently in force should be tightened from December 6.

The Scottish passport system, introduced in October, currently applies to nightclubs, adult entertainment venues and various mass attendance events indoors and outdoors.

Business leaders in Scotland have claimed firms are opposed to further coronavirus restrictions.

Almost two thirds (65 per cent) of companies surveyed for Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) were against increased use of vaccine passports, more home working and greater use of face coverings.

Hospitality bodies also opposed the move, saying that any extension of the vaccine passport scheme would have a ‘devastating impact’.

ENGLAND

Westminster ministers have so far refrained from introducing compulsory Covid passports amid privacy and civil liberty concerns.

The Government dramatically ditched plans to adopt certification rules for nightclubs and other major venues following a huge Tory outcry.

But Downing Street confirmed venues will be told to implement the measure if the NHS comes under ‘unsustainable pressure’ this autumn or winter.     

Plan B – which ministers hope will be enough to stop the country from succumbing to another full-blown lockdown – also includes re-enforcing face masks indoors and work from home guidance.

Proposals published by the Department of Health have now revealed more details of the passport scheme, and warn it could be implemented ‘at short notice in response to concerning data’. 

Covid vaccine passports will be compulsory in Northern Ireland next month after Stormont ministers backed the controversial measure.  

People in the UK province will have to provide a passport or proof of a negative Covid test result to access hospitality venues including nightclubs, pubs or restaurants from December 13. 

In Wales, Covid passes have been required for entry to cinemas, theatres and concert halls since Monday after MPs voted to extend the measures. And in Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is planning to extend the passport scheme to cover pubs, cinemas and theatres – as well as clubs – ahead of Christmas. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has so far refrained from introducing Covid passports in England, though Downing Street has admitted that the controversial measure could be imposed in the event of the NHS coming under pressure this winter.

Speaking after the snap vote this evening, Northern Ireland’s Health Minister Robin Swann said he was trying to avoid the need for restrictions this winter, including a full lockdown, and insisted ministers ‘have to act’.

‘Our Covid numbers are too high and we need to forcibly push them down,’ he told reporters. ‘Our health and social care system is under severe stress.’ 

The deaths of a further 12 patients who had tested positive for Covid in Northern Ireland were reported on Wednesday along with another 1,848 positive cases of the virus. This morning, there were 427 Covid-positive patients in hospital, with 33 in intensive care. 

The Health Minister is also now set to draw up a package of others measures to help increase compliance with current Covid restrictions and guidance and drive up vaccination rates.

DUP ministers voted against the proposal but Sinn Fein, SDLP, Alliance and UUP ministers backed it. The DUP did not deploy a cross-community voting mechanism that could have blocked the introduction of certification in the region. However, the party has called for a vote in the Assembly before the policy is introduced.

Responding to the move, DUP First Minister Paul Givan called the policy ‘divisive’ and said it would have ‘marginal’ impact on reducing transmission rates. He added it would create a ‘two-tier’ system whereby certification was required for certain private sector businesses but not for accessing public services.

Previous Executive decisions on Covid restrictions, including lockdowns, have been subject to retrospective votes in the chamber, usually weeks after the measures have been rolled out.

Under Mr Swann’s plan, people wishing to gain entry to designated 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.

Covid certification will be used to gain entry to nightclubs, hospitality premises that serve food and/or drink, cinemas, theatres and conferences halls. It will also be needed to access indoor events with 500 or more attendees where some or all of the audience is not normally seated.

Certificates 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 compulsory at all events of 10,000 or more attendees whether the audience is seated or not.

Mr Swann wants the 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.

Non-compliant venues could be hit with a £1,000 fine.

Mr Swann’s proposals come amid escalating pressures on the region’s beleaguered health system, with Covid transmission rates rising in recent weeks, particularly among young people.

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

Mr Givan, who declined to be drawn when asked why the DUP had not vetoed the move, said the Department of Health would be better served taking action to free up beds occupied by patients who would be cared for at home.

‘Whenever we ask the questions around how effective would this policy be, it was marginal,’ he said.

‘There has been no assessment around the effectiveness. We look at the Republic of Ireland that has had this scheme in, and their rates of transmission are much higher than Northern Ireland.

‘Their hospital pressures are higher than Northern Ireland and they have had this scheme in place.

‘When we ask questions around the economic impact assessment, none had been carried out. No equality impact assessment, no assessment in terms of human rights legislation has been carried out.’

Speaking after the vote this evening, the Health Minister, Robin Swann, said he was trying to avoid the need for more severe restrictions later in the winter and urged ministers ‘have to act’

Covid vaccine passports will be compulsory in Northern Ireland next month after Stormont ministers backed the move 

Scotland’s Covid passport scheme could be extended to cover pubs, cinemas and theatres just weeks before Christmas , Nicola Sturgeon admitted.

The First Minister told Holyrood that her administration will decide next week whether restrictions currently in force should be tightened from December 6.

The Scottish passport system, introduced in October, currently applies to nightclubs, adult entertainment venues and various mass attendance events indoors and outdoors.

Business leaders in Scotland have claimed firms are opposed to further coronavirus restrictions.

Almost two thirds (65 per cent) of companies surveyed for Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) were against increased use of vaccine passports, more home working and greater use of face coverings.

Hospitality bodies also opposed the move, saying that any extension of the vaccine passport scheme would have a ‘devastating impact’.

And Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross said: ‘The public were expecting clear decisions but instead we’re being told once more to tune in next week. The government has delayed again and created avoidable uncertainty.

‘Nicola Sturgeon is once again leaving workers and businesses in the dark. They might have less than two weeks to adapt to changes to the vaccine passport scheme at one of the busiest times of the year for the hospitality industry.’

Some of Mr Givan’s colleagues were quick to criticise the Executive’s decision. Former economy minister Paul Frew vowed never to use a vaccine passport while MP Sammy Wilson said the proposal was developed by Mr Swann to ‘hide his own lack of planning’ within the health system.

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

Supporting the move north of the border, Sinn Fein minister Conor Murphy said: ‘We are in a position now where action taken now can prevent more serious action having to be taken in the future and we do want to be in a position where we do all we can to ensure that businesses can remain open and people can enjoy the build-up to Christmas, but do so in a way that is sensible and we do so in a way which recognises the virus is on the increase again and that measures have to be taken.’

SDLP minister Nichola Mallon, who has been calling for vaccine passports for two months, expressed frustration that it had taken so long.

She also criticised the DUP position and asked what alternative the party was proposing to tackle spiralling transmission rates.

‘Finally, the Executive has taken that decision and we need to make sure that we accelerate the introduction and make sure that we use every tool that we have in the box to ensure that we minimise as much as possible the chances of any further restrictions later in December,’ she said.

Ahead of the meeting, Alliance leader Naomi Long said: ‘I don’t want anyone to think that a Covid passporting scheme is a silver bullet to that wider problem.

‘Each of us needs to take personal responsibility for ensuring that insofar as possible we reduce our amount of social contact, try to keep social distancing in place and wear our masks and comply with all other regulations.

‘We are not going to get to this point with only Covid passports, but they could make a valuable contribution in protecting people in high-risk environments from ending up in ICU.’

It comes as Nicola Sturgeon admitted on Tuesday that Scotland’s Covid passport scheme could be extended to cover pubs, cinemas and theatres just weeks before Christmas.

The First Minister told Holyrood that her administration will decide next week whether restrictions currently in force should be tightened from December 6.

The Scottish passport system, introduced in October, currently applies to nightclubs, adult entertainment venues and various mass attendance events indoors and outdoors.

Business leaders in Scotland have claimed firms are opposed to further restrictions. Almost two thirds (65 per cent) of companies surveyed for Scottish Chambers of Commerce (SCC) were against increased use of vaccine passports, more home working and greater use of face coverings. Hospitality bodies also opposed the move, saying that any extension of the vaccine passport scheme would have a ‘devastating impact’.

And Scottish Conservative Leader Douglas Ross said: ‘The public were expecting clear decisions but instead we’re being told once more to tune in next week. The government has delayed again and created avoidable uncertainty. Nicola Sturgeon is once again leaving workers and businesses in the dark. They might have less than two weeks to adapt to changes to the vaccine passport scheme at one of the busiest times of the year for the hospitality industry.’

Ms Sturgeon told MSPs: ‘I am acutely aware that many businesses want us to remove mitigations – including certification – not extend or tighten them.

‘I understand that. But all of our decisions are and must be motivated by a desire to keep people safe but also to get through what will be a challenging winter without having to re-introduce any restrictions on trade.

‘We want if possible businesses to stay fully open over Christmas and through the winter, while also keeping Covid under control. If an expansion of Covid certification can help us do that, it would be irresponsible not to consider it.’

The First Minister told MSPs her government will also consider introducing the option to provide a negative Covid-19 test result to enter venues instead of the passport.

Department of Health bosses posted 38,263 new infections over the last 24 hours, down 2.7 per cent on the 39,329 recorded last Wednesday. Data also revealed 201 people died with the virus today, down 6.1 per cent on the 214 recorded last week

A sign of what’s to come for the UK? Ireland’s top medic claims cancelling Christmas social plans is ‘RESPONSIBLE’ 

Cancelling Christmas plans is a ‘responsible decision’, Ireland’s chief medical officer claimed today as the storm of cases in Europe prompted fears Britain may follow suit in imposing curbs this winter.

Starting tomorrow in Ireland, all hospitality businesses including nightclubs and pubs will be forced to close at midnight, the use of Covid passports will be expanded, and people will be advised to work from home where possible.

The country took the decision to increase restrictions after Austria and the Netherlands reimposed curbs, with Europe once again becoming the epicentre of the pandemic.

Dr Tony Holohan said it would be up to business and individuals to decide whether to hold Christmas parties or meet up in the festive period. 

Asked if people should cut down socialising, he said: ‘People are making these kinds of decisions as ways of reducing their own risk and ways of reducing the risk to their loved ones and their friends and family and so on.

‘These are responsible decisions. Decisions that nobody wants to be taking it this time of the year, of course. We all understand the value of Christmas, particularly in this country. To me, those are responsible decisions now that people are making.’

She said: ‘Again let me stress that we have not at this stage taken a decision to extend the reach of the scheme.

‘However, to allow us to engage openly with businesses in the coming days about the pros, cons and practicalities, I can confirm that the kinds of settings that might be in scope would be indoor cinemas, theatres, and some other licensed and hospitality premises.’

She added: ‘While we hope very much to get through winter without re-introducing any further restrictions, as some other countries are now starting to do, we do have a duty to keep proportionate options under review and we will do so.’

The First Minister also told the Scottish Parliament that she was asking employers to look again at supporting more employees to work from home.

And she said there is no sign so far that the Cop26 conference in Glasgow contributed to a rise in cases of Covid-19.

A survey of more than 150 business owners and operators in Scotland found a majority of businesses said turnover was down by more than 10 per cent when compared with pre-coronavirus pandemic levels.

People attending large events in Scotland have to prove their vaccine status, and the poll on behalf of five hospitality bodies found that if the policy was to expand further, 76.2 per cent of businesses would not survive the winter without further Government support, and 95.4 per cent would be forced to cut staff hours if trade reduced as expected.

‘From this survey it is clear to see that Scotland’s hospitality sector is in a precarious situation, making the recovery period all the more important. Four out of five (83.6 per cent) businesses are significantly below pre-pandemic levels and with inflation, debt levels and other costs rising, the sector is facing a very difficult winter ahead,’ a joint statement said on Monday on behalf of UKHospitality Scotland, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association, the Scottish Beer and Pub Association, the Scottish Hospitality Group, and the Night Time Industries Association.

Last Thursday, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said the Scottish Government was considering extending its certification scheme to further parts of the hospitality and leisure sector, but in polling for the five organisations, fewer than 1 per cent of businesses already hit by the current policy said trade had been unaffected.  

Boris Johnson has so far resisted pressure to resort to Plan B, with Downing Street hoping that the booster roll-out will stop the NHS succumbing to ‘unsustainable’ pressure this winter without the need for masks and vaccine passports.

On Monday the Prime Minister admitted that a Christmas lockdown was not completely off the cards, making a desperate plea for Britons to get their top-up jabs and warning ‘storm clouds’ of infection were gathering over Europe.   

Ireland’s chief medical officer said it would be up to business and individuals to decide whether to hold Christmas parties or meet up in the festive period in the country, after a boom of cases across Europe led to countries reimposing restrictions across the continent.

All hospitality businesses in the Republic of Ireland including nightclubs and pubs will be forced to close at midnight, the use of Covid passports will be expanded, and people will be advised to work from home where possible.

The country took the decision to increase restrictions after Austria and the Netherlands reimposed curbs, with Europe once again becoming the epicentre of the pandemic.

Dr Tony Holohan said it would be up to business and individuals to decide whether to hold Christmas parties or meet up in the festive period.

Asked if people should cut down socialising, he said: ‘People are making these kinds of decisions as ways of reducing their own risk and ways of reducing the risk to their loved ones and their friends and family and so on.

‘These are responsible decisions. Decisions that nobody wants to be taking it this time of the year, of course. We all understand the value of Christmas, particularly in this country. To me, those are responsible decisions now that people are making.’

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