Vaccine passports could be used for large events in NI, hints Robin Swann

Vaccine passports in Northern Ireland should be limited to international travel and large events, the Health Minister has said.

Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 9:05 pm
Health Minister Robin Swann pictured a Covid-19 media briefing. (Photo: Pacemaker)

Robin Swann said he would not be supportive of using vaccine certifications for gaining access to hospitality providers or close-contact service businesses.

A weekly health briefing by Mr Swann and senior health officials also heard that the region’s first consignment of Moderna vaccine was not now expected until June.

In regard to the relatively high incidence rate of the virus recently recorded in the Derry City and Strabane district council area, Mr Swann said the increase had plateaued and was not at the level where consideration of localised restrictions would be required.

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The minister also raised “concern” about the disparity in the pace of vaccine rollout between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic but he expressed confidence that the programme south of the border would catch up in the coming months.

Last week First Minister Arlene Foster raised the possibility of Northern Ireland participating in UK trials on using vaccine passports to allow people to return to large events, such as sporting occasions.

Mr Swann said he was keen to establish whether that approach would work in the region.

However, he made clear that he would not wish to see certification extended to other settings with Northern Ireland.

“What the First Minister was referring to are some of the trials that have been taken in regards to large-scale venues, large-scale events, actually seeing activities happening without social distancing,” he said.

“So they are, I suppose, trials for very specific types of events in the next step in regard to easements at a UK-wide level.

“We would be keen to see if that’s something that could work in Northern Ireland.

“But the utilisation of Covid vaccine passports to access hospitality or close-contact services is not something that sits comfortably with me.

“But there’s a necessity, or a possibility, for the utilisation for international travel, but not for accessing domestic services and support.”