Peter Robinson: Hospitality has no enthusiasm for vaccine passports but they are better than being shut

The first image that comes into my mind when the most talked about topic of the decade is discussed, is the reminder encompassed in its name — Covid 19.

Friday, 6th August 2021, 1:42 pm
Updated Friday, 6th August 2021, 2:08 pm
Peter Robinson is a former leader of the DUP and first minister of Northern Ireland

The “19” denotes 2019, the year of its discovery after the zoonotic event from a virus circulating in bats was, through a carrier, transmitted to humans.

Here, in 2021, with no end in sight, we still ponder how life has changed, how long that change has lasted and how long it may be before we can all move on.

Few of us could have imagined that restrictions would still apply almost three years after China, the birthplace of Covid 19, first commenced its attempt to combat the pandemic.

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Whether safe distancing, masks, or Covid passports, yes, they are inconvenient but surely, we each have a responsibility to and for our fellow citizens

Nothing that has occurred over the months has changed my opinion — offered in an earlier column — that we must learn to live with the virus.

That means taking preventive steps that enable us to carry out normal everyday activities.

I do not consider the virus safeguards to be a denial of anyone’s rights. People do not have the right to endanger others.

Whether safe distancing, masks, or Covid passports, yes, they are inconvenient and at time a downright nuisance but surely, we each have a responsibility to and for our fellow citizens to play our part in beating the pandemic.

Mind you, I was worried when my first application for a vaccine passport brought a response that NIDirect were unable to verify my identity but within a short time I had been discovered.

At the time of writing there’s still no certificate, but I travel in hope or at least I will if my certificate arrives.

The exercise took five minutes.

It appears there is not much enthusiasm for the use of a vaccine passport for admission to hospitality venues. I am not trying to take a contrarian posture but ...

I know our hospitality industry have suffered more than most during the recent months and years.

The toll has been heavy, and many businesses are no longer functioning and many who worked in the sector have moved to less vulnerable vocations.

I think they have one of the strongest cases for support, but they should not consider the use of passports for entry to their premises as a negative outcome.

Sure, they will need to be consulted and certainly they should not be left to carry the cost of the additional supervision that will be required, but it is not all downhill.

Many more customers will find it reassuring that care is being taken and will feel more confident in going back to our hotels and restaurants.

More important, those who do will be safer.

As for the argument that they will have to police the process and turn away those who have not bothered to avail of a passport, well, better that, than having to close businesses if the virus spread rises.

If the executive, having considered this scenario, is intending to move forward, they should fully consult with the industry, but they should also lighten the load it is carrying by providing financial assistance to cover the cost of the processes they are wanting to impose.

This is equally the case for other areas of activity where the same proposition may be contemplated.

Covid and its variants will be around for a long time.

Hopefully they will lessen in their impact, and treatments will progressively improve, but a sensible approach will require long-term planning.

The severity trajectory is improving.

Deaths are not at the same level, but no minister can relax while death and danger lurk.

No pandemic is ever just a health problem in isolation, and we must learn how best to live our lives safely alongside the virus until it is defeated.

Funding pandemic coping-measures by our executive will, in time, prove to be the best and wisest investment they make.

Breathing life into our economy, while in tandem, crushing the disease is the only viable option.

This means providing funding to assist those industries that we as a community are asking to take profit-losing steps on our behalf.

If our executive, on our behalf, force businesses to take measures that make the business less viable then our executive must provide adequate funding support.

And finally, I was sorry to hear Alex Kane is zipping up his Newsletter pencil case.

I wish him well.

I always found his column to be a good read even when he annoyed me. But that’s the mark of a great columnist.

His mix of cynicism, satire and common sense will be greatly missed. But why is it that I suspect we have not heard his last penetrating observation on events here in Northern Ireland?

• Peter Robinson is a former DUP leader and first minister of Northern Ireland

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