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NI Covid rules for hospitality and vaccine passports will ‘hopefully’ be relaxed, says Paul Givan as Stormont Executive meets today


First Minister Paul Givan: Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

First Minister Paul Givan: Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

First Minister Paul Givan: Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

The First Minister Paul Givan has said he is “hopeful” that relaxations will be agreed today on Covid passports and for hospitality.

Speaking on Good Morning Ulster, Mr Givan was speaking on BBC Good Morning Ulster ahead of a meeting of the Stormont Executive today.

It’s reported that ministers will be informed that Northern Ireland is most likely at the peak of the Omicron surge.

Mr Givan said he was “hopeful” that progress can be made on lifting restrictions in key areas like hospitality.

"We did go into Christmas having really built up our immunity with the roll out of the booster campaign,” he said.

"We didn’t take the same decisions where the Republic if Ireland, Scotland and Wales for example put a curfew on hospitality at 8pm, Scotland and Wales stopped spectators going to sports matches.”

Mr Givan said the more relaxed approach from Stormont was “proportionate” in order to keep society both open and safe.

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Asked if he expected to drop the use of vaccine passports, he said it was the DUP’s position to drop their use entirely.

He said his expectation today would be for a reduction of the vaccine passports in certain settings.

On night clubs and hospitality restrictions, he said it was likely that Stormont could relax measures some time between January 24-28.

“I think in hospitality, that one is something we are seeking to move as quickly as we can on,” he said.

Looking ahead to an Executive meeting on February 10, he said this would be an important moment to consider measures like lifting the requirement for the use of face masks.

While not considering the threat of Omicron to have passed, he said hospital data suggested it was becoming more manageable.

The PA news agency report that the real picture of positive test results is likely to be higher, given the recent change in testing policy which means confirmatory PCR tests are no longer required.

Data in a paper seen by PA suggests that around 1 in 15 and 1 in 20m of the population tested positive for the virus in the week up January 7 – around 18,000 cases per day.

Hospital admissions and Covid bed occupancy did increase last week, but has started to fall slowly in recent days.

The paper also states that second peak is possible in Northern Ireland in the next fortnight due to a second spread among school children.

The severity of Omicron is believed to be “substantially reduced” from the Delta variant and it is thought the current measures will be enough to maintain peak hospital levels at “a significantly lower level than last January”.

Further difficulties are possible, however, as very high levels of community transmission may result in significant staff absences which may reduce capacity in health trusts.

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