Hospitality ‘singled out' for Covid passports in Northern Ireland

19 November 2021 by
Hospitality ‘singled out' for Covid passports in Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Executive has been accused of "singling out" the hospitality industry and sending "a clear signal that we are of no value or concern" following a decision to impose mandatory Covid-19 vaccine passports for entry into all hospitality premises.

It is understood the measure would apply for access to nightclubs; all hospitality venues that serve food and drink (including coffee shops and cafés); cinemas, theatres, concert halls and conference centres; indoor events with 500 or more attendees, with some or all of the audience not normally seated; outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees, with some or all of the audience not normally seated; and events of more than 10,000 people.

Guests will have to provide an NHS Covid Pass, a negative PCR or lateral flow test, or a positive PCR in the previous 10-180 days.

Regulations would take effect from 29 November but won't be legally enforced until 13 December, with a 14-day grace period before fixed penalty notices can be issued.

Hospitality Ulster said it would continue to lobby the NI Executive for support to mitigate the anticipated impacts on footfall and costs. Staff will be exempt from the requirement.

Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster, said: "The decision to impose mandatory Covid passports on the entire hospitality industry, without any mention of support, sends a clear signal that we are of no value or concern…

"There is real concern from our industry that businesses owners, who are already struggling to recover and now facing the most critical period of the year, will be the ones who must be the enforcers of the scheme, and it is our staff that will face the abuse.

"Evidence shows that this will negatively impact footfall and increase costs in the most important part of the year. As the worst impacted industry, and the one singled out repeatedly for restrictions, we are facing an unknown future. Our industry will have to fight to retain staff and save businesses.

"Hospitality Ulster will do all we can to support them, as it would appear we are on our own."

A survey of Hospitality Ulster members found that 72% did not support Covid passports.

Meanwhile, the Scottish government is due to decide whether to extend the Covid certification requirement to more licensed and hospitality premises next Tuesday (23 November) with any subsequent changes to come into effect from 6 December.

A survey of Scottish operators said that if vaccine passports were extended to wider hospitality, 76.2% said they would not survive the winter without further government support and 95.4% would have to cut staff hours if trade reduced as expected.

Of those businesses already impacted by the policy, 95.2% said trade had been negatively impacted, while 87.2% have seen trade reduced by over 20% since the introduction of the scheme.

In Wales, Covid passports are required for guests to enter nightclubs and larger indoor and outdoor events, as well as theatres, cinemas and concert halls, but it has been confirmed this will not be extended to other hospitality businesses for the next three weeks.

However, first minister Mark Drakeford said: "We will do everything we can to keep Wales open and to keep Wales safe. This means keeping the option of extending the use of the Covid pass if cases rise again and pandemic pressures on the NHS increase, to help keep the hospitality sector open and trading through the busy festive period."

Wales' next review of regulations will be announced on Friday 10 December.

Photo: Enrica Tancioni/Unsplash

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