Covid-19 certs to become mandatory in Northern Ireland next month

DUP opposes measure but other Stormont parties back health minister Robin Swann’s plan

Covid-19 vaccine passports are to be introduced on a mandatory basis for people accessing certain venues in Northern Ireland from next month after Stormont ministers backed the move despite DUP opposition.

Executive members from Sinn Féin, the UUP, the SDLP and Alliance all supported the plan from Stormont health minister Robin Swann, which will see the certs legally enforced for those attending nightclubs, bars, restaurants, cinemas, theatres and conference halls.

Under the plan, people wishing to gain entry to the designated venues would need to demonstrate evidence of Covid-19 vaccination, a negative lateral flow test result or proof of infection in the previous six months. Non-compliant venues could face a £1,000 fine.

Certs would also be needed for indoor events with 500 or more attendees where some or all attendees are not normally seated, outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees where some or all are not normally seated and events with 10,000 or more attendees whether the audience is seated or not.


The DUP has called for a vote in the Assembly before the policy is introduced but it has not deployed a cross-community voting mechanism that could have blocked their introduction.

Grace period

Mr Swann wants the regulations needed for the law change come into effect on November 29th, with a 14-day grace period before they become enforceable on December 13th. He is also to draw up a package of others measures aimed at increasing compliance with current pandemic rules and guidance and driving vaccination rates up.

“Our Covid numbers are too high and we need to forcibly push them down,” he said. “Our health and social care system is under severe stress. We have to act.”

Northern Ireland’s Department of Health on Wednesday reported a further 12 deaths of patients who had tested positive for Covid-19 and a further 1,848 cases. There were 427 Covid-positive patients in hospitals, including 33 people in intensive care.

Covid-19 transmission rates have soared in Northern Ireland in recent weeks, particularly among young people.

A modelling paper from health officials presented to the Executive ahead of Wednesday’s meeting warned passports may not be enough to suppress the rising rate of infections, which has risen by 23 per cent in a week.

DUP First Minister Paul Givan criticised the vaccine cert policy as "divisive" and claimed it would have "marginal" impact on reducing transmission rates.

‘Two-tier’ system

He said it would create a “two-tier” system whereby certification was required for certain private sector businesses but not for accessing public services.

“We look at the Republic of Ireland that has had this scheme in, and their rates of transmission are much higher than Northern Ireland,” he said.

Sinn Féin minister Conor Murphy said “action taken now can prevent more serious action having to be taken in the future” and that the aim was to do “all we can” to ensure that businesses can remain open in the build-up to Christmas.

SDLP minister Nichola Mallon, who has been calling for vaccine passports for two months, criticised the DUP position and asked what alternatives the party was proposing to tackle spiralling transmission rates.

Alliance leader Naomi Long said: “I don’t want anyone to think that a Covid passporting scheme is a silver bullet to that wider problem.

“Each of us needs to take personal responsibility for ensuring that insofar as possible we reduce our amount of social contact, try to keep social distancing in place and wear our masks and comply with all other regulations.” – PA