Halloween could be ‘super-spreader event’, says Northern Irish politician

Unvaccinated young people may bring Covid-19 home to people shielding, warns MLA

Alliance Party’s Kellie Armstrong said she believes  relaxation of restrictions has moved too far and too fast. Photograph: Liam McBurney/ PA Wire

Alliance Party’s Kellie Armstrong said she believes relaxation of restrictions has moved too far and too fast. Photograph: Liam McBurney/ PA Wire

 

Halloween night could become a “super-spreader event” for young people in Northern Ireland who have not received a Covid vaccination, an MLA has warned.

The Alliance Party’s Kellie Armstrong said she believes the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions has moved too far and too fast, and that more effort should be put into encouraging young people to get a jab.

On October 31st, nightclubs are due to reopen in Northern Ireland and social distancing rules that currently limit capacity in bars and restaurants will move from regulation to guidance.

People will also be able to move freely around hospitality premises from that date, including being able to stand at the bar for a drink.

There has been criticism of some of the relaxations agreed by the Executive while pressures on hospitals remain high, with Dr Tom Black, chairman of the British Medical Association’s Northern Ireland council, describing them as “madness”.

Alliance Party and SDLP ministers have also said relaxations should only proceed if accompanied by mandatory vaccine passports.

Particular criticism followed the decision that masks will not be mandatory for dancing in nightclubs when they reopen.

During an appearance on the BBC’s Inside Politics programme, Ms Armstrong was asked if she believes that the easing of restrictions has moved “too far, too fast”.

She said: “Yes, I do believe that. I believe that we should be incentivising young people to get the vaccine.

“You saw it last summer when the concerts started up again, when Belsonic came forward, that company said you could only come into the venue if you had proof of vaccination.

“I think that is the sort of thing that we should be encouraging, especially within nightclubs.”

She added: “We have the potential on Halloween night for a super-spreader event for young people who have not been vaccinated yet to spread the Covid virus to their grandparents, to their parents, to other family members who are shielding at home.

“And that will only add pressures to our health system. If we are going to invest in health, then we have to help health by doing proactive things ourselves to stop that spread.”

Health Minister Robin Swann said he believes there has been some confusion over what has been agreed by the Executive about face coverings.

Speaking on Saturday, he stressed that face coverings are still mandatory on public transport, in retail and in crowded public spaces. He added that masks could only be removed in nightclubs when eating, drinking or dancing.

“Those easing of restrictions came with asks as well,” he said.

“There is an option for any venue to take in guidance the utilisation of Covid vaccine certification or people having received a lateral flow test.

“I would encourage those venues that are opening up to look to that guidance that is there.

“But also people who are going to nightclubs to be responsible as well. One of the things I would say to them is be responsible.” – PA