NI executive called on to support companies affected by Covid certification program
The Northern Ireland executive has been called on to urgently provide financial support to businesses that will be affected by the Covid certification program.
The new Covid measures should be presented to the Assembly on Monday, November 29, with a grace period until December 13, when the regulations will be applied.
The program will require people to show proof of their full immunization status; or a negative result on the lateral flow test within the previous 48 hours; or proof of recovery after a positive PCR test within the previous 30 to 180 days.
The Belfast Chamber has said the new measures will hit some sectors with costs they cannot afford and called on the executive to provide financial support to all who will be affected by the certification program.
Belfast House Chief Executive Simon Hamilton said: “With the executive issuing regulations to introduce ‘COVID passports’ in Northern Ireland, ministers must immediately turn their attention to the need to compensate the companies concerned for the cost that they will now inevitably incur as they implement the certification system.
“The hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses have had an absolutely scorching time over the past 20 months. They are only now starting to restart, but here they are, on the verge of being hit by more measures imposed by the executive that will cost them money they can badly afford.
“Without adequate financial support in place quickly, jobs will be at risk. Indeed, many businesses are already seeing bookings cancellations, so this, and speculation about closures and blockages, is already having a negative effect on trade.
“Much has been said during the debate on ‘covid passports.’ Little has been said, however, about how the companies involved will be able to pay for it or what support Stormont might offer. That needs to change.
“How on earth does the executive think that a company whose restrictions have been closed for months will be able to afford to pay staff to scan people’s covid passports? companies, including a shortage of personnel in the sectors which will have to implement this mechanism, but no financial support is offered, which is simply unacceptable.
‘The Belfast chamber is begging ministers that if their’ COVID passport ‘program is approved by the Assembly and comes into full force in early December, they must find a way to compensate companies so they can continue to trade and keep people in employment. “
Hamilton also said business support “shouldn’t end there”, saying rate support will be vital to ensure some can survive.
He continued, “The start of the new tariff year is fast approaching and the two-year tariff holiday will come to an end. It is clear that with the slow recovery of businesses facing customers, a further increase in VAT for the hospitality on the horizon, the usual quieter January period looming and with them still affected by executive restrictions, rate support will have to continue. comprehensive could prove to be a tipping point for many companies. ”
Meanwhile, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said his party remained opposed to a certification system, preferring instead an “evidence-based policy”.
The DUP ministers of the Stormont executive voted against Health Minister Robin Swann’s plan for such a program for the hospitality sector.
Speaking to party members on Saturday, Sir Jeffrey said the position is “not because we reject the threat posed by the virus, but because the focus should be on policy and measures based on evidence that will make a real difference “.
Sir Jeffrey also called on Mr Swann to present a long term plan for hospitals, highlighting the impact on bed counts due to pressures in the home care sector.
He said: “Surprisingly, there were 513 people in the Southern Trust alone waiting for a care package.
“It would be safer to pay our home care workers better wages, make careers more attractive and have more caregivers employed than paying huge sums for withdrawal facilities when most patients just want be back in their own bed.
“While the Minister of Health responded to our campaign by announcing a few days ago that he was allocating more money to home care, it will run out in March and will not bring the necessary reform. Our hospitals need a long term plan. “
On Sunday, the deaths of two other patients who had previously tested positive for Covid-19, and 1,405 cases of the virus, were reported in Northern Ireland.