By James Ward, PA
Opposition to the introduction of vaccination passports has been blasted as “astounding and reckless” by SDLP leader Colum Eastwood.
Mr Eastwood has slammed the DUP and Sinn Fein after they opposed a proposal to make proof of vaccination one requirement of entry to indoor seated venues in Northern Ireland.
It comes as ministers agreed a plan to drop the one metre social distancing requirement across a range of venues, but decided that plans to require so-called vaccination passports for entry to the indoor seated venues would be advisory only.
Mr Eastwood blasted the decision as “irresponsible” amid warnings of pressure on the health service during winter.
Pictured - SDLP's Claire Hanna, Colum Eastwood and Nichola Mallon
He said: “This is a moment for political leadership.
“The warnings from senior health service professionals could not be starker.
“Unless rates of transmission fall, we are looking at a bleak winter scenario that will push health workers beyond their limits and see some emergency services collapse.
“We cannot allow that to happen.
“The choice we have right now is to increase vaccinations or introduce restrictions.
“In a few weeks, we wont have any choice at all.
“This was the moment to act.
“The evidence from other regions that have implemented vaccine certification programmes is that it drives vaccine uptake, particularly in younger age groups.
“This is uncomfortable, no-one wants to be in this situation, but if this will save lives and protect our health service then of course we should do it and do it quickly.”
Pictured - SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood
At a meeting on Monday evening, SDLP Minister Nichola Mallon argued against a proposal from the DUP and Sinn Fein which will see social distancing measures dropped in indoor seated venues without the requirement of vaccine certification.
Ms Mallon proposed Covid vaccine passports for those venues be introduced by regulation, but was blocked in the executive vote.
Mr Eastwood added: “It is astounding and reckless that DUP and Sinn Fein Ministers have kicked the can down the road instead of bringing certainty and clarity.
“Their decision not to put vaccine certifications in regulation but instead to remove social distancing requirements and advise businesses to opt in is totally irresponsible.
“Not only does this offer no incentive for vaccination it puts the onus entirely on businesses themselves.
“This is a cop out and another failure of leadership.”
Pictured - Infastructure Minister Nichola Mallon