Hundreds rally in Belfast against Covid-19 certification scheme

New system is now mandatory in NI’s cinemas, theatres and licensed premises

Demonstrators against the new Covid certification system protest outside Belfast City Hall. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Demonstrators against the new Covid certification system protest outside Belfast City Hall. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

A rally protesting against Northern Ireland’s Covid-19 certification scheme has taken place in Belfast.

Several hundred people gathered outside Belfast City Hall for the rally on Saturday, with many carrying anti-Covid certification placards and banners.

Police temporarily closed one of the busiest roads in the city, as a number of speakers addressed the rally.

Those in attendance were told that the event was not a protest against vaccines, but rather opposing the certification regulations which were introduced on Monday.

The certification scheme is now mandatory in licensed premises, as well as cinemas and theatres.

Under the regulations, people entering these premises will be asked for proof of vaccination or a negative test result for Covid-19.

But there will be a short grace period, with no fines for non-compliance issued until December 13th.

Speakers at the rally on Saturday told the crowd that it was an event to campaign for everyone to be treated equally “regardless of their medical status”.

There were loud cheers when it was stated that further rallies would follow.

Beside the rally, shoppers queued to gain access to the Christmas market in the grounds of Belfast City Hall, where they were asked to show their vaccination certificates.

Northern Ireland’s Minister for Health Robin Swann revealed on Friday that 86,000 people have applied to the domestic certification scheme this week.

He also said that a helpline to give assistance to those applying for the scheme’s paper or digital certificates is currently dealing with 3,000 calls a day.

The issue has caused controversy in the Executive, with the DUP opposing mandatory Covid certification.

MLAs are set to hold a debate on the regulations next week.

Booster drive

Meanwhile, about 50 community pharmacies are taking part in the Big Jab Weekend across Northern Ireland this weekend, designed to increase uptake of the booster vaccine for Covid-19.

The pharmacies are providing first and second doses to anyone over 18, as well as booster jabs for those who are eligible.

The programme in pharmacies will complement the ongoing provision of booster jabs by a network of health trust hubs, trust walk-in clinics and GPs.

A further nine deaths of patients who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 were reported in Northern Ireland on Saturday.

Another 1,642 cases of the virus there were also notified. – PA