Councillors have condemned ‘disgraceful’ abuse directed at hospitality staff after a rollout of new Covid measures in Northern Ireland.
Two Newry, Mourne and Down councillors urged people to show respect to staff running businesses in the district following ‘high levels of abuse’ from the public.
Last month, the Stormont Executive agreed to plans to introduce a mandatory vaccine passport for the hospitality sector.
Under the new measures, the public now needs to provide a ‘passport’ or proof of a Covid test result to access nightclubs, pubs or restaurants.
The warning from councillors comes ahead of the regulations becoming legally enforceable on Monday (December 13).
Sinn Fein’s Cathy Mason said the pressure also on GP surgeries and health centres meant staff at those facilities were also “battling a tide of abuse” in recent weeks.
She added: “It’s easy to recognise the hard work in these sectors but important to remember that we do not see the full insight into the day and daily dealing of these workers and difficulties that they face.
“In recent times, staff at GP surgeries have been battling a wave of abuse and the surgeries are being pushed to the point of collapse and staff are quitting.
“The abuse of GPs and their staff is indefensible and it has a detrimental impact on our workers’ health and well-being.
“There are also reports from hospitality staff that they are dealing with an increase in abuse since the restrictions were reintroduced and business owners saying they’re concerned for their staff is worrying.
“This is not fair on workers who deserve to be treated with decency as they try to earn a living for themselves and their families.
“It’s understandable as we continue to recover from the crisis that people are frustrated and want to see a return to normal but this does not give way for anyone to harass staff. They must be treated with respect.”
SDLP councillor, Declan McAteer, said it was “only right” that the council leadership team put this into the public domain and called for the abuse to stop immediately.
He said: “I sat over an hour last weekend with proprietors of a local establishment who had virtually broken down in tears over the abuse that they were getting.
“We as councillors, we need to be brave with this one. We need to send a strong message out that whatever people’s views are on vaccinations, abuse of staff is unacceptable.
“These people are trying to implement the law and trying to facilitate people the best that they can.”