Small businesses sound alarm on ‘Covid passports’
Following the Executive’s recent vote to introduce mandatory COVID Status Certification checks in a wide range of business settings, FSB Northern Ireland has polled its members and found an alarming disconnect between the Executive policy and the business community.
Speaking about the Poll, Head of FSB Northern Ireland, Roger Pollen said: “In the wake of the news that many businesses will be required to introduce mandatory checks – where they will be required to ascertain whether customers are either ‘fully vaccinated’; can produce a negative Lateral Flow Test; or can demonstrate natural immunity – we quickly started to hear expressions of real unease right across our membership.
“This ranged from concern around the lack of clarity as to the actual purpose of the checks, to the massive additional burden such checks could impose on businesses.
“There was also real concern about the inequality of approach, as it proposes only requiring the private sector to implement the checks, with no similar requirement in enclosed spaces operated by the public sector.
“The level of concern was such that we felt it important to poll our members to gauge the depth and breadth of feeling – the response to the poll was surprisingly quick and substantial.”
Key findings in the Poll were:
- Despite polling on the assumption that the policy will be enacted, almost 30% of respondents took the opportunity of a ‘free text section’ to express the view that the policy is a mistake and should not be implemented. There was a strong sense from members that there was no clear purpose and the policy was a disproportionate response to the challenges society is facing.
- Over 85% of those polled stated that the policy should either not proceed at all or, if it is to go ahead, should apply to both the public sector and private sector alike.
- Of those businesses which will be required to implement the proposed policy, 60% said that it will negatively impact their operating costs.
- 67% of all respondents, irrespective of whether the policy would impact them directly or not, said that businesses that are compelled to enforce certification checks should receive support in order to do so.
Commenting on the wider implications of the policy, Roger Pollen added: “There was also strong support for a ‘sunset clause’ on the Regulation, with almost 80% of respondents urging a firm date to be set by which the Regulation must expire, unless actively renewed by a further Executive agreement.
“Whilst we all hope the current Executive will not collapse, and that the election in May will see a new one installed, political instability is never far away.
“In that light, there remains a possibility that a health Regulation introduced by this Executive, such as this COVID Status Certification check which imposes massive burdens on business, would remain in force until repealed by a new Executive.
“Such a circumstance would be unacceptable and must be avoided; that’s the clear message from small businesses across Northern Ireland.
“With this policy due to take effect on Monday, the fact that there has been no public awareness campaign and no clear guidance provided for businesses means many firms are facing into an impossible scenario; and that, too, is unacceptable.”