O’Neill has ‘real concerns’ over using Covid certificates as entry requirement in Northern Ireland

O’Neill has ‘real concerns’ over using Covid certificates as entry requirement in Northern Ireland

Ms O’Neill also ruled out any plans to link a proposed high street voucher shopping scheme with double vaccination

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill has said she would have “real concerns” over any proposal for vaccine certificates to be required for entry to indoor hospitality or entertainment venues in Northern Ireland.

Ms O’Neill also ruled out any plans to link a proposed high street voucher shopping scheme with double vaccination, following a suggestion from Health Minister Robin Swann.

He had earlier said he could support making it a requirement for people to have two vaccinations before they could use the shopping scheme as an incentive to persuade more people to get jabbed.

A number of hospitals in Northern Ireland are struggling to cope with a surge in Covid-19 admissions, and the Belfast trust has said 60% of people admitted to hospitals in its area have not been vaccinated.

Stormont’s Department of Economy announced the high street voucher scheme last year to support traders hit by lockdown restrictions caused by the pandemic.

People would be issued with pre-paid cards with a value of up to £100, which could be used in shops but not online.

Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann in the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings at Stormont in Belfast.
Northern Ireland Health Minister Robin Swann in the Great Hall of Parliament Buildings at Stormont in Belfast.

In response, Ms O’Neill said: “I think Robin perhaps misspoke this morning, there is no intention to link up the high street voucher and people taking up the vaccine.

“Obviously we encourage everybody to take up the vaccine, it is the best defence against Covid. It is the thing that will get us to the other side of this."

Ms O'Neill, however, said she would have "real" and "genuine" concerns from "a human rights perspective" in terms of the inequality vaccine certs could create 

"I would come at it from a very sceptical point of view. But we do intend to come back to it over the next number of weeks, over what it is that we can do.

“But I remain sceptical about making it an entry requirement.”

A further 1,473 cases of the virus were reported in Northern Ireland this afternoon.

On Tuesday morning, 243 Covid-19 positive patients were in hospital in the region with 29 in intensive care.

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