Social Democratic and Labour Party Leader Colum Eastwood MP has written to the First Ministers today urging Paul Givan and Michelle O’Neill to support the introduction of a mandatory vaccine certification programme in Northern Ireland.
The Foyle MP said that the decision to defer tough choices around certification by the DUP and Sinn Féin in spite of the stark warnings issued by health service leaders has contributed to growing pressures and urgent action is now required.
Colum Eastwood MP said:
“Two months ago I wrote to the First Ministers urging them to introduce a vaccine certification programme in the North to mitigate the threat of increased transmission of Covid-19 as we entered the winter period. It was entirely predictable that traditional winter pressures, combined with increased transmission of Covid-19, would lead to unsustainable demand for hospital beds that could overwhelm urgent care settings.
“The policy of deferring and delaying the difficult decisions that were needed months ago has contributed to the situation we’re now in. Hospitals forced to divert patients in need of treatment because they have no bed space and pressures have become overwhelming. Make no mistake – what we are seeing is the collapse of some services in spite of the exhaustive efforts of staff doing their best to cope. This is a failure of public policy caused by a failure of political leadership.
“As a political leader I am not prepared to stand by and just hope that case numbers fall. The truth is that we have two choices – increase vaccinations or increase restrictions. I do not believe we can endure another extended lockdown, it would be devastating for people, their mental health and for businesses and their staff. Our proposal is aimed at keeping our health service going, our society open and our economy afloat.
“I have written to Paul Givan and Michelle O’Neill again today urging them to change course. The time to take decisive action was months ago but the opportunity to act remains. The Executive must, this week, move to introduce a mandatory certification programme to prevent the collapse of health services and protect the public.”