SDLP leader Colum Eastwood: Make Covid passes mandatory for hospitality, entertainment venues and care home workers

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has called on the Executive to exclude all but fully vaccinated people from hospitality and entertainment venues.
Colum Eastwood has written to the First and Deputy First Ministers.Colum Eastwood has written to the First and Deputy First Ministers.
Colum Eastwood has written to the First and Deputy First Ministers.

He has also called for mandatory vaccination for all care home workers across NI.

The MP has written to First and Deputy First Ministers Paul Givan and Michelle O’Neill in light of predictions of a difficult winter ahead for the health service.

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“The truth is that we have two choices – increase vaccinations or introduce restrictions,” he said. “I do not believe we can endure another extended lockdown, it would be devastating for people, their mental health and for businesses and their staff. I also  don’t think it’s fair to hundreds of thousands of people who have followed the public health advice, received their vaccinations and are doing their best to keep our communities safe.”

He added: “I have written to the joint First Ministers today outlining my strong view that given the proportion of people currently in ICU who have not been vaccinated, that the Executive Office should now look to introduce Covid passes for hospitality and entertainment venues.”

Mr Eastwood also called for mandatory vaccination for all care home workers in NI.

“If I had an elderly relative living in a care home, I’d be very concerned about their health and Covid-19 and I’d want to ensure that everybody working in their care home was vaccinated,” the Foyle MP told the BBC.

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On Wednesday, the chief executives of industry bodies Retail NI, Hospitality Ulster and the Belfast Chamber of Commerce said the NI business community was “looking [on] with desperation at the rest of the UK and this island as their restrictions are being phased out”.

“The executive needs to produce a realistic timeline of safely lifting the remaining restrictions to give our members certainty and stability on the way ahead,” they said.

But Aontú health spokesperson councillor Emmet Doyle hit out at Mr Eastwood over his calls for mandatory vaccine passes for health care workers.

“Even if staff are free of the illness and have tested negative with regular antigen testing Colum Eastwood is looking for hundreds of health care workers to stay at home,” Mr Doyle said. “Not only is this discriminatory but it would also do incredible damage to the health Service”.    

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Eight further deaths of patients who had tested positive for Covid-19 were reported in NI today.

The Department of Health also said there had been 1,165 new confirmed cases in the last 24-hour reporting period. On Thursday morning there were 383 Covid patients in hospital, with 31 in intensive care. A total of 2,511,208 vaccines have been administered.

NI has followed changes in GB with green and amber lists no longer to be used for travel, but changes to pre-travel and post-arrival testing are still to be discussed by NI ministers.

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