O’Neill ‘very opened minded’ to vaccine passports if they’re for ‘greater good’

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Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill back at work after Covid

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Michelle O’Neill has said she is “very open” to the adoption of vaccine passports in Northern Ireland if evidence shows they could help in suppressing Covid-19.

Stormont’s deputy First Minister said she retained human rights concerns around the use of vaccine certification but suggested they may be required for the “greater good”.

First Minister Paul Givan said he continued to have concerns about requiring people to prove vaccination in order to gain entry to hospitality venues, noting that thousands of unvaccinated people would be denied access.

Stormont officials have been examining policy issues around using vaccine certification in Northern Ireland and assessing the logistical requirements of rolling out such a system.

The policy has been cited as a contributory factor in encouraging more young people in the Irish Republic to come forward for jabs.

The SDLP has said the time has now come for its adoption north of the border to help drive up vaccination rates.

The concept is set to feature at a special Stormont Executive meeting next week when ministers discuss potential mitigations that could allow them to drop social distancing requirements for indoor hospitality venues in Northern Ireland.

“I have expressed concerns and I still have those concerns, however if it’s for the greater good, if it helps us keep the virus suppressed and assists us just in terms of our recovery, then I’m very open to that,” Ms O’Neill told a Stormont press conference after Thursday’s Executive meeting.

“We’ve asked health (department) to make a firm recommendation in terms of this.

“We’re getting ready in terms logistically (of) being able to roll such a thing out if we decide to go there. So it’s very much on the table and I’m very open minded in terms of using it, if it’s the right thing to do and it gets us the desired outcome.”

Michelle O'Neill and Paul Givan

Mr Givan said such a scheme would have “implications around equality of access for our citizens”.

“I also want to get the evidence as to how would this work and would it achieve the desired outcome in terms of reducing the levels of transmission?” he said.

Mr Givan said that the authorities in England has decided against vaccine certification and said the policy in the Irish Republic was set to end next month.

“So I would want to get the evidence base in order to inform a decision that we would need to take,” he said.

“I think all of us need to get that technical capacity, we need to get the evidence as to whether or not it would work to achieve the outcome of reducing transmission and then we need to weigh up those issues around equality of access for our citizens.”

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