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Paul Givan claims ‘still no evidence’ for mandatory Covid-19 certification, despite Department of Health advice

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First Minister Paul Givan. Photo credit: PA/Liam McBurney

First Minister Paul Givan. Photo credit: PA/Liam McBurney

First Minister Paul Givan. Photo credit: PA/Liam McBurney

First Minister Paul Givan is continuing to contest the introduction of Northern Ireland's Covid certification scheme, which is set to become legally enforceable on Monday.

I still don't believe that there is the evidential basis for a mandatory Covid certification scheme,” he told BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme.

“I only point people to what has been happening in Scotland, where this new variant is really ripping through the community there. They’ve had mandatory Covid passport schemes in place for months now.

“I just think that when we make decisions, we need to make sure that the evidence is there in order to bring the public with us and I don’t think on this measure that that has been done effectively.”

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In a previous statement, the Department of Health said: “It should be noted that the Covid certification scheme, as agreed by the Executive, is not a vaccine passport scheme.

"It requires proof of either full vaccination status; or a negative Lateral Flow test result in the previous 48 hours; or proof of recovery from a positive PCR test in the previous 30-180 days.

“Covid certification can reduce the number of infected people in high risk settings. Vaccinated people are less likely to become infected and ill than unvaccinated people. There is also evidence, from several studies worldwide, that even when people get infected, if they are vaccinated they are less likely to transmit it to others.”

However, the DUP politician said he still “awaits the assessment” as to how the Covid-19 certification scheme reduces transmission of coronavirus, but admitted that he has heard “anecdotal evidence” whereby there has been a greater uptake in people getting vaccinated as a result of it.

The scheme requires people to prove Covid status to gain entry to a range of hospitality venues and large attendance events.

It was introduced in Northern Ireland late last month with a two-week grace period to allow businesses to adjust.

The regulations that give legal weight to the new system will be subject to a vote in the Stormont Assembly on Monday afternoon and it seems unlikely that the law changes will be voted down, with the DUP being the only coalition party to oppose the proposal thus far.

Under the regulations, businesses who repeatedly fail to administer the scheme could face fines of up to £10,000.

In a letter sent to all Assembly Members, seen by the PA news agency, Health Minister Swann called for a "respectful debate" on the measures and said opponents should set out their preferred alternatives.

"While I am confident this measure will be supported by a majority of MLAs, I wanted to underline some key points, not least for those who have still to make up their minds," he wrote.

"Firstly, it needs to be recognised that Covid certification is a public health measure. By introducing it, the Executive and the Assembly will be following public health advice.

"The Chief Medical Officer (Sir Michael McBride) and Chief Scientific Adviser (Professor Ian Young) have both recommended the initiative to help reduce the risk of infection in higher risk settings."

Mr Givan said he is instead encouraging the public to take “simple measures” to help reduce the spread of Omicron, the new variant of coronavirus.

He urged people to take regular lateral flow tests and receive their booster jab, which he stated is the “single most impactful thing” members of the public can do to curb the spread of Omicron.

The Lagan Valley MLA said the new variant is “moving rapidly in England in Scotland”, noting that it is “only a matter of time” before it really hits Northern Ireland and that it is more transmissible than the Delta variant.

“Across the United Kingdom, there’s a collective effort being made to really ramp up the booster campaign. As we increase accessibility and supply, we need people to come forward.”

The Department of Health announced on Sunday that walk-in vaccination clinics are now also open to anyone aged over 30 to receive their booster jab, as long as it has been at least three months since they had their second coronavirus vaccine.

Health trust hubs are now extending their opening hours and days of operation with immediate effect, with hundreds of additional vaccinators in the process of being recruited.

Mr Givan welcomed the news, adding that he had been speaking to some members of the public who claimed they were waiting over two hours get their booster jabs, with some people then dropping out of the queues due to extensive wait times.

“We need to make sure there’s a good flow through so people aren’t dropping out, because we need to meet the demand,” he said.

“We’re in a better place because we’re in this window of opportunity before the new variant really takes a grip, but that’s where we need the public to step forward and help us.”


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