Thursday, 18 February 2021
Covid-19 (Enterprise, Trade and Employment): Statements
Matters relating to tourism and the media are mainly under the remit of the Minister, Deputy Catherine Martin. She would probably be able to give the Deputy a better reply than me, but I will do the best I can with the knowledge I have.
Regarding local newspapers and radio, newspapers have benefited from the reduction in the VAT rate to 9%. It was never increased for them. They can benefit from the wage subsidy scheme if their turnover is down. We have put in place some financial support for local radio. However, the underlying problem is the fact that the world is changing and sales of newspapers, both local and national, are down. Their advertising income is also down because people are advertising in different ways. While we are always open to providing extra support for local radio, newspapers and journalism, there comes a point where we must ask ourselves how much taxpayers' money are we willing to put behind newspapers that people do not read in large numbers anymore and that people do not advertise in anymore. It is a sad situation, but a great deal of the media will move fully online in future. That is the way the world is going.
Regarding immunisation documents and passports, when the time comes - I do not know when that will be - the key to restoring a great deal of travel, including international travel, will be how people prove that they have been vaccinated and-or tested negative. We have an immunisation document with a QR code on it ready that people will get to show that they have been immunised. Other countries, for example, Israel, are using such documents so that people who hold them do not have to self-isolate. The same applies with the travel bubble that Israel has set up with Cyprus and Greece, but we in Europe are not at that point yet. The science does not yet say that being vaccinated is enough to prove that someone cannot get the virus and pass it on, but I hope that we will get there.