A petition against the Covid Certification Scheme has been presented to the Stormont Assembly.
DUP MLA Paul Frew said it had been backed by 10,000 signatures, adding he could “not think of a more honourable cause for a petition than to record our disgust and abhorrence that an Executive and indeed this Assembly can pass such a discriminatory measure as vaccine certification”.
The petition was organised by the group Liberty NI.
The scheme, introduced late last year, sees many businesses in the hospitality sector required to ask customers for proof of vaccination, a negative lateral flow test result, or proof of previous infection for entry.
Mr Frew introduced the petition into the Assembly on Monday.
He criticised the use of emergency legislation to introduce the measure, describing it as undemocratic and not accountable to the rigorous regime of stages of primary legislation.
“This measure – vaccine certification – is one of a number of cruel measures brought in by this Health Minister (Robin Swann), but this one treats people differently,” he told MLAs, claiming it was “designed to discriminate” and is “unacceptable”.
“It has also had a terrible impact on business and has created dramatic suffering of downturns in those businesses, not only because people are being prevented from entering their premises, but because many are refusing to play any part in this practise of certification and discrimination.
“This needs to end and it needs to end now.”
In a statement, a spokesman for Liberty NI said, “Prior to the introduction of vaccine passports in NI, we warned of the impact on business, the discrimination, and its inability to stop transmission. On every count, the people have been proved right.
“We have had calls from countless individuals and businesses telling us of the negative impact of vaccine passports. Businesses have witnessed a 50% drop in trade since its introduction, while transmission has increased rapidly.”
Later, during Assembly Questions for Justice Minister Naomi Long, Mr Frew blasted another decision by the Executive – to make the wearing of face coverings in indoor settings mandatory.
Enforcement of the rule had been due to start on January 7 but it was suspended amid uncertainty over how those exempt from wearing a face covering would be able to prove it.
Mr Frew said there are many people who cannot wear masks due to trauma.
Ms Long responded by saying the issue had been the number of people “abusing” the self-certification system.
“The result of that was, for example, people going online, ordering sunflower lanyards, which have been hugely helpful to those who have hidden disabilities or trauma, and abusing that system for their own purposes,” she said.
“It was a recommendation of the Department of Health that we would make this compulsory in order that it could be enforced because, while self-certification is in place, it is incredibly difficult to foresee how such a measure can be enforced.”
Ms Long said she felt the Executive did the right thing by suspending enforcement.
On Monday in Northern Ireland, the deaths of a further four people who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 and another 3,295 cases of the virus were notified.
On Monday morning, there were 394 Covid-positive patients in hospital, with 28 in intensive care.