Social Democratic and Labour Party Leader Colum Eastwood MP has said that introducing vaccine certifications would be the best way of keeping businesses open and preventing further lockdowns.
Mr Eastwood was speaking ahead of the easing of restrictions in the North on Sunday.
SDLP Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon consistently argued for the introduction of vaccine certifications at the Executive, but this was opposed by Sinn Féin and the DUP.
Foyle MP Colum Eastwood said:
“The easing of restrictions this weekend has been cause for much excitement. The public will be happy they can once again return to nightclubs and businesses will be rightfully ecstatic to open their doors for the first time in nearly two years. While this is welcome, we cannot ignore the fact that our hospitals are under increasing pressure.
“Rarely a day goes by without another horror story on the state our health service is in. This year’s winter pressures have arrived earlier than normal and are affecting services across the board. Our health staff are crying out for help, they know what’s to come. We are still recording over 1,000 new cases of the virus daily and people are dying.
“We cannot continue to lift restrictions without mitigations while we are in this situation. Eventually the pressure on our health service will increase and we will be faced with tough decisions. Nobody wants to see another lockdown, it will have a devastating impact on people’s mental health, businesses and their staff. We have a proven alternative that will allow us to prevent another lockdown while protecting our health service from being overrun – vaccine certifications.
“The evidence from other jurisdictions is clear – the introduction of vaccine certifications encourages vaccine uptake, particularly in younger age groups. Surely this is not too much to ask in the interests of keeping the public, their families and our staff safe.
“Our proposals for vaccine certifications were blocked at the Executive by Sinn Féin and the DUP who instead left the matter in the hands of individual businesses. This will create confusion and pressure for both businesses and their staff from patrons who may experience differing rules from one venue to the next.
“This decision marks a serious abdication of responsibility and leadership, with the consequences set to play out in our hospitals in the months to come. I hope the impact of this weekend’s reopening will be closely monitored and Sinn Féin-DUP ministers will reconsider their decision on vaccine certification before it’s too late.”