Statement by TUV leader Jim Allister:
“I have always been clear that there is a duty on everyone to take all sensible and reasonable steps to help stop the spread of COVID. We all have our part to play in suppressing the spread of a virus which has caused much suffering and resulted in the loss of many loved ones.
“I have also been clear that there is an onus on the powers that be to devise and enforce laws which are rational, necessary, easy to explain to the public and proportionate. The change of onus in the rules on exemption from wearing a face covering fails to meet this test.
“I have been contacted by many members of the public who have legitimate reasons for not wearing a face covering who are now finding this difficult to prove.
“The NI Direct website now advises the public:
“Since 27 December 2021, an individual who is exempt from the requirement to wear a face covering must be able to prove this to a relevant person, such as a police or enforcement officer.”
“The question therefore arises of how they prove this. Constituents have told me that when they requested a letter from their GP to prove their exemption they were advised that the General Medical Council had told GPs not to issue such letters. So, how can an affected person proceed?
“I must ask was an equality impact assessment carried out on this change of policy, and, if not, why not, given many affected may be ‘disabled’?
“It is totally unsatisfactory that people with, for example, severe asthma, autism or prone to panic attacks should be issued with fixed penalty notices in the first instance. Given the nature of their conditions the action of being issued with a notice may very well in and of itself result in problems.
“When the Assembly returns I will be pressing for answers on this matter.”