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Govt to issue 1.9 million digital certs Monday but they won't be compulsory for travel, says Minister

Minister of State Ossian Smyth said the Covid pass would speed things up at the airport.

Image: Shutterstock

Updated Jul 8th 2021, 6:22 PM

THE GOVERNMENT WILL issue 1.9 million EU Covid-19 digital passes from next Monday 12 July but they won’t be necessary for international travel, says Minister of State Ossian Smyth.

The EU document – essentially a QR code available on smartphones or on paper – will be available to those who have been fully vaccinated, who have acquired natural immunity through contracting Covid-19 in the last six months, or who have a recent negative PCR test will be eligible for the Covid pass.

Smyth, the Government’s spokesperson for public procurement and eGovernment, told Morning Ireland that the digital cert is not a prerequisite for travel but it will make it faster and easier going through the airport when non-essential international travel returns on 19 July

He said people without a cert or who aren’t vaccinated may still travel on their existing documentation, but they will still need a negative PCR test result. 

“If for any reason, you don’t have a certificate, for example, if you’re not vaccinated for whatever reason, you can still travel on your existing documentation. That hasn’t changed,” he said. 

“If you can show evidence that you’ve been vaccinated or that you’ve been tested, you can still travel. It’s not a prerequisite for travel, you don’t have to have a digital Covid cert to travel on Monday week. But it does make it faster. 

“If you want to go to Spain, or you want to go to France, you don’t have to have a digital Covid cert, it makes it faster and easier going through the airport. But if you don’t have it, you can still travel on your existing documentation. 

“The rules about isolation are being removed across Europe. So up to now, if you went on a short trip to France it was hardly worth it because you would have to go and isolate for a number of days – and the same in Ireland. So we’re removing those rules about isolation. If you arrive with a vaccination or test cert, you don’t have to self-isolate anymore.” 

If you’re travelling within the EU you can check what restrictions are in your destination country here, while details of non-EU country restrictions can be found here.

Smyth added: “If you have a Digital Covid Cert they will scan it, if you don’t have that, but you have some proof that you’ve been vaccinated or tested and it can’t be scanned, it’s just compared against your passport.”

He said in the worst-case scenario people can avail of a test in the airport if they don’t have any documentation. 

People who require a negative test to obtain a Digital Covid Cert will not be able to use the HSE’s free testing service to do so and instead will be required to go through a private provider. 

Private testing providers will be able to issue digital covid certs if the antigen or RT-PCR test is negative and taken no more than 72 hours before arrival.  A cert based on an antigen test will not be accepted for entry to Ireland but is acceptable in a number of other countries.

A Digital Covid Cert call centre will be set up in the coming days t0 allow people to call and request a cert if they are entitled to one through natural immunity. 

That call centre will also deal with queries from people who are fully vaccinated but have not yet received a Digital Covid Cert.

Smyth said that people who’ve been vaccinated at a mass vaccination centre will receive their cert via email while those who went to a doctor, pharmacist or hospital will receive it in the post, “and it’s a sheet of paper.”  

Talks are set to resume this afternoon between government and representatives from the hospitality sector as part of efforts to bring about the return of indoor dining.

A number of options are said to be on the table following a similar meeting on Monday, when those attending were told that indoor dining could possibly reopen for 1.8 million fully vaccinated people under the new vaccine pass system.

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Smyth said the certs may be used by the hospitality sector but that details were still being “firmed up”. 

“I think they are looking at using these digital certs for entry and I think a proposal is likely to be brought to Cabinet on Tuesday in that regard in case any new laws or regulations are required to operationalise that reopening,” he said. 

“The important thing is that any scheme that comes up is supported by the restaurants and the pubs as being workable and reasonable and actually something that they want to use.”

The Licensed Vintners’ Association has said it feels it has “no option” but to accept the government’s proposals.

LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe said the group feels it is “deeply problematic on a practical level” but that “when the choice comes down to this proposal or staying closed for several more months, we feel we have no option but to go along with it”.

“With some pubs having now been shut for almost 16 consecutive months we’re being put over a barrel because we have to get the sector open or more businesses will go bust and thousands more will lose their livelihoods,” O’Keeffe said.

“The system they are putting forward is open to abuse and there will be real questions and concerns in the coming weeks as to whether everyone claiming to be vaccinated will be. It is also deeply unfair and discriminatory towards hospitality staff and others who may not yet have been vaccinated or who are unable to do so for various reasons,” he said.

“We are expecting major problems on the ground such as individuals seeking to gain access under false pretences. Tourists that arrive here on a negative PCR test won’t be permitted indoors.

“We have received many reports of members of the public taking serious objections to providing a single contact number for a group and that creating aggravation for the staff involved, so we do anticipate there will be even more difficulties once this approach is implemented.”

About the author:

Adam Daly

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