The Northern Ireland Executive has voted in favour of mandatory vaccine passports.
At an Executive meeting today (Wednesday), it is understood that a vote of six to four in favour was returned.
The proposals had been brought forward by Health Minister Robin Swann in a bid to deal with rising Covid numbers and unprecedented pressures facing local hospitals.
The SDLP, Sinn Fein and Alliance all backed the proposals, while the DUP voted against.
A second paper will now be drafted – which will also look at other restrictions which could be applied to curb the spead of Covid-19 in the countdown to Christmas – and come back before the Executive in the coming days.
The passports could be introduced at the end of this month with a two-week period of grace before the issuing of fixed penalties.
It is expected that the passports will apply to gain admission to pubs, nightclubs, theatres, cinemas and venues which serve food and drink.
Health Minister Robin Swann has welcomed developments, as he said a range of sustained actions are needed to drive down Northern Ireland’s Covid-19 infection rate.
The Minister said: “Certification must be seen as one piece in a jigsaw of required measures. Other measures include significantly increased use of face coverings, more people working from home and more social distancing. We need to limit our contacts and always be mindful of the importance of fresh air and good ventilation in dispersing Covid-19 particles.
“We also need to continue the acceleration of our vaccine booster roll-out, and keep encouraging more people to come forward for their first and second doses.
“The case for Covid certification in hospitality is not complicated. It can reduce the number of infected people in high risk settings. Vaccinated people are less likely to become infected and ill than unvaccinated people. And the virus is only transmitted by infected people.
“Our Covid numbers are too high and we need to forcibly push them down. Our health and social care system is under severe stress. We have to act.
“Let me also emphasise that I do not want to see further Covid restrictions on our economy or our daily lives. Such a decision is far from inevitable.
“We can all play our part in altering the direction of this pandemic. It is in all our hands.
“By following public health advice we can help keep each other safe and support our health workers.
“We all want this pandemic to be over, but simply wishing it away is never going to be enough. A united effort across society is what is needed to get us through this winter.”
Covid certification requires proof of full vaccination status, or a negative Lateral Flow Test in the previous 48 hours, or proof of recovery from a positive PCR test in the previous 30 – 180 days.