By Rebecca Black, PA
The Covid vaccination certification scheme “absolutely should” be brought to the Stormont Assembly for debate, a DUP MLA has said.
Christopher Stalford expressed disappointment in the Assembly today that there was no debate on the scheme listed for this week.
New regulations were introduced last week that make showing proof of vaccination or a negative test result a mandatory requirement to enter licensed premises, as well as cinemas and theatres.
There is a short grace period until December 13 before fines will be issued.
Several hundred people gathered outside Belfast City Hall on Saturday to protest against the move.
In the Assembly today, Mr Stalford called for Stormont MLAs to be given the opportunity to debate the scheme.
His party voted against it in the Executive.
No such debate has been listed in the Assembly’s business diary for this week.
“Over the course of this pandemic we have become accustomed to granting retrospective approval for measures introduced by the Executive, the measures kick in and then the House votes to approve them afterwards,” Mr Stalford told MLAs.
“Given the nature of the scheme proposed, I don’t think that that is appropriate, in fact I think it is really important that we as members of this House are afforded the opportunity to see the evidence that such a scheme will work in combating the threat of the virus.
“It is really important that these issues are argued out and debated here on the floor of this House.
“The Northern Ireland Executive is comprised of members of this House, there are more members of this House than there are members of the Executive.
"It is our job to question and to debate and to argue issues out, and given the fundamentally different nature of this proposal from that which went before in terms of combating the threat of Covid-19, a threat that we all recognise, a threat that we all want to see tackled, I think it is essential that we, the members of this Assembly, whether we’re for them or against them, we should be allowed the opportunity to debate this out and to have the arguments thrashed out here on the floor of the House.
“I recognise that the minister for health has a very difficult job, and is facing a very difficult time over the coming months, but it is our job to support the minister when he is right but also to question, and to debate and to tease out the evidence, and that’s why I am very disappointed that I don’t see any reference in the business diary to such a debate taking place. It absolutely should take place.”
The death of one further patient who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 and a further 1,635 cases of the virus were notified today.
This morning there were 301 Covid-positive patients in hospital, of whom 34 were in intensive care.