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Covid vaccine passport ‘blackmail’ angers NI hospitality group

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Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster. (Brian Lawless/PA)

Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster. (Brian Lawless/PA)

Colin Neill, Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster. (Brian Lawless/PA)

The Chief Executive of Hospitality Ulster has said introducing a vaccine passport for pubs and restaurants here would amount to blackmail.

Speaking on BBC Good Morning Ulster, Colin Neill said it was not an appropriate way to encourage more young people to get vaccinated.

He was responding to reports that a Stormont taskforce is exploring the option.

A scheme has already been planned for England and was credited for encouraging young people in the Irish Republic over the weekend as 30,000 people were vaccinated at walk-in centres.

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Mr Neill, however, said it was not fair to single out hospitality commenting: “You cannot blackmail people into doing stuff”.

He said a good example of an incentive for young people was the Feile Festival, which offered free tickets in exchange for getting a vaccine.

“That’s an incentive, removing someone’s privileged right or whatever you want to call it is not an incentive,” he said.

“Why single out hospitality? Why not say you can’t go on the bus or you can’t go back to university if you can’t do this.”

Mr Neill said he had written to the Health Minister Robin Swann on the issue but said he got a reply that said “jog on”.

He then clarified the response had told him to talk to the First and Deputy First Ministers.

Health committee members, People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll and the DUP’s Paula Bradshaw, were questioned about Mr Neill’s comments.

Mr Carroll said he was concerned that using a hospitality vaccine passport could become something of an own goal for anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists.

He favoured a public information campaign instead to dispel the myths about vaccines for young people as well as methods like celebrity endorsement of the vaccine programme.

Mr Carroll said one reason some younger people were still reluctant to get a vaccine could be an “attitude” in public messaging last year that they weren’t at risk from Covid-19.

Ms Bradshaw said she was concerned about Mr Neill’s perception the hospitality industry was not being included in decision making.

She agreed there had been a misconception that young people were not vulnerable to Covid-19, so many did not feel any urgency over getting a vaccine.

Ms Bradshaw added that her 21-year-old son was getting her second jab today, and that being allowed into night clubs when he returns to university was definitely a motivation.

Despite this, she still said no to Covid vaccine hospitality passports until more evidence was available.


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