North sees ‘remarkable’ increase in vaccination coverage

The introduction of a Covid-19 vaccine passport scheme in the north has led to a “pretty remarkable” rise in the number of people applying for vaccination.

Northern Ireland’s chief physician Michael McBride said on Wednesday 10,000 people had received their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine in the week since the scheme was announced.

Ministers in the North agreed last week to make proof of vaccination mandatory in certain catering establishments and large-capacity venues, including pubs, restaurants and nightclubs.

The regulation will go into effect on November 29, and enforcement will come into effect from December 13.

Speaking to reporters as he got his Covid booster vaccine at a health center in the north Belfastsaid Dr. McBride that 10,000 first doses and 84,000 booster doses had been administered in the past week.

He said a “combination of motives” encouraged people to come forward.

“I think people have been delayed and I think people are recognizing the fact that it’s really, really important to get your vaccine, not just to protect yourself but others,” he said.

“But it also opens up that path to hospitality and I think there’s no doubt that there’s evidence that people will get the vaccine because they recognize that it opens doors to pubs and restaurants and allows people to get their lives back.”

He said he hoped the scheme would create “backlash for, hopefully, hospitality in particular, as more people, more people like me, will feel more confident going into the hospitality industry knowing that everyone has been vaccinated or has a lateral flow test and it’s not contagious,” he said.

On Wednesday the North Ministry of Health reported four more deaths of people with Covid-19 and 1,931 new positive cases of the virus.

A total of 386 patients with Covid-19 were treated in hospital on Wednesday morning, 36 of whom were in intensive care.

When asked about the warning from the Minister of Health, Robin Swann, earlier this week that some hospitality businesses could be forced to close over Christmas if the number of Covid-19 cases continues to rise, said Dr. McBride that all ministers were “united” in wanting to “keep society as open as possible”.

He said a balance had to be struck and “we want our economy to prosper, but at the same time we also need to recognize that we need to control infection rates now.

“So we now have a real chance to act early, act decisively, all come together and control infection rates and avoid any more restrictive measures that may be needed later,” he said.

Meanwhile, chiefs of health from the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) have appealed to patients who are healthy enough to leave the hospital to move to care homes to address an urgent shortage of beds.

Brendan Whittle, director of social care and children at the HSCB, said it was “wrong” for patients to be healthy enough to remain in a hospital bed while there are other patients waiting to be admitted.

Additional reporting: PA

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