More than 4,500 apply to North’s temporary ‘vaccine passport’ scheme

Plan only available to those with travel bookings before permanent system starts

On Monday an additional 420 people tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland, according to the North’s Department of Health. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

On Monday an additional 420 people tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland, according to the North’s Department of Health. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

More than 4,500 people have applied to the North’s temporary “vaccine passport” scheme in its first few days, Northern Ireland’s Minister for Health has told the Stormont Assembly.

The temporary scheme is only available to people with bookings for travel before the permanent comprehensive certificate system comes into force, which is expected to be available on or before July 19th.

Mr Swann said the interim solution was “developed in an incredibly short period of time” and was provided “after some countries unilaterally decided to require vaccine proof ahead of the EU vaccine passport scheme becoming fully functional.”

On Monday an additional 420 people tested positive for Covid-19 in Northern Ireland, according to the North’s Department of Health. There were no further fatalities.

A total of 32 patients with Covid-19 are receiving hospital treatment in the North, with four in intensive care.

The number of new infections in the North has been increasingly rapidly in recent weeks as the Delta variant has become the dominant strain.

According to Monday’s Departmental figures, 2,788 people tested positive for the virus in the last seven days, more than 1,200 more than the week before.

The North’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride, told the BBC on Monday that “we are in another wave, a fourth wave” of the virus and said there was “no doubt” case numbers would rise rapidly.

This surge is expected to peak by late summer. A drive is underway by public health officials to boost the take-up of the Covid-19 vaccine, which the Department says could reduce hospital admissions over the summer by as much as 50 per cent.

Walk-in vaccines

More than two million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have so far been administered in Northern Ireland, with the vaccination programme expected to have inoculated 85 per cent of the adult population with first doses by the end of July.

Mobile walk-in vaccination clinics are now operating in a number of locations, and selected regional vaccination centres – the SSE Arena in Belfast, Seven Towers Leisure Centre in Ballymena and South Lake Leisure Centre in Craigavon are offering “walk-in” first doses, with no appointment necessary.

From Tuesday the Foyle Arena in Derry will open for walk-in vaccinations, with jabs available without appointment at Omagh Leisure Centre until July 7th and at the Lakeland Forum in Enniskillen on July 8th.

Appointments are still available to book at all of the North’s regional vaccination centres.

The North’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Ian Young, said modelling indicated that reaching 90 per cent take-up of first doses by the end the month “could reduce hospital admissions by half when the peak comes.

“This assumes that everyone getting the first dose goes on to get their second dose, and the fuller protection it provides,” he said.

“It would mean hundreds fewer people in hospital, hundreds fewer suffering serious and potentially life-threatening illness. It would also significantly ease potential pressures on our health service.”

He emphasised that modelling was not the same as predicting, and there were also other factors to consider, including the extent to which people continued to adhere to public health advice.

“If more people start acting in a way that helps spread the virus, then the peak will likely be more severe,” he warned.

“The modelling does provide us with an insight into the tangible benefits of further increasing vaccine take-up rate. There is a race between vaccination and the variant. Every jab counts.”

On Monday the UK’s National Health Services, including that in Northern Ireland, was awarded the George Cross,

Northern Ireland’s Minister for Health, Robin Swann, said it recognised “decades of dedicated service by the National Health Services, including the courageous work by staff during the Covid-19 pandemic.”