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Call centre will allow those recovered from Covid to call up to receive travel cert

Cabinet has approved the establishment of a new expert group on rapid Covid-19 testing.

A Covid passport with a QR code on a mobile phone at Rotterdam the Hague airport, Netherlands.
A Covid passport with a QR code on a mobile phone at Rotterdam the Hague airport, Netherlands.
Image: Utrecht Robin/ABACA

Updated Jul 6th 2021, 9:50 PM

PEOPLE WHO ARE fully vaccinated will begin to receive their EU Covid-19 digital passes from next Monday 12 July. 

People will either receive their certs via email or in the post with Revenue assisting in sending out the certs via post. 

The Digital Covid Cert will allow people to travel within the EU. It will mean those with a Covid pass will be able to return to Ireland without having to restrict their movements or quarantine.

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.

The government is set to set up a Digital Covid Cert call centre that will allow people call and request a cert if they are entitled 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. A date for the beginning of this call centre has not yet been set. 

The HSE estimates that it has about 170,000 people on record who have had a positive test in the past six months and are therefore entitled to a Digital Covid Cert for that reason. 

Those individuals will not automatically receive a Digital Covid Cert and will be required to call up to receive one. 

A government spokesperson said this evening that people who may not have had a positive test through the HSE may obtain a Digital Covid Cert if they’re recorded in the test and trace system as having had Covid-19.

People can also get a Digital Covid Cert if they have received a recent negative PCR test.

The government has now confirmed that 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.

Instead, people will be required to go through a private provider with a spokesperson saying that this is about “not mixing the public health system for something that’s there for people to travel.”

EU laws

Speaking earlier on RTÉ’s News at One today, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that Ireland will allow people with digital passes into Ireland if they have a negative PCR test result, but who don’t have natural or vaccine-based immunity, as that is what the EU laws require.

But he said that Ireland’s public health advice is that people who aren’t vaccinated or who don’t have natural immunity shouldn’t travel abroad.

Varadkar said some people will receive their pass by email,and others will receive it by post.

“There will be teething problems,” Varadkar warned. “I’m sure there will be some people who don’t get their certificate on time, so we will have a call centre in place to help people out… and it’s very possible there will be some delays in the airports initially.” 

He advised people who did plan on flying abroad to allow for plenty of time for delays, and to be aware of the two different sets of Covid-19 rules – one for the country they’re leaving and another for the country they will be entering.

Indoor dining

Speaking to reporters today, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said that people will begin to receive their digital certs either by email or post from next week.

He added that the immediate priority is that the digital certs will be used for travel before they are considered as a form of vaccine pass for hospitality. 

“Firstly I think we should separate the two things out at the moment, the travel Covid cert is a specific EU programme, an EU mechanism, and while we do have to address the hospitality issue in some way, first things first let’s get the travel cert out,” he said. 

Varadkar also said he can’t say for certain that indoor dining will be operational from 19 July, and that there have been “difficulties” with making it safe.

Proposals on how indoor dining could operate are to be brought to Cabinet next Tuesday, and Varadkar said they are engaging with industry reps on that.

When asked whether testing could be used to reopen indoor dining, Varadkar said it was “in the mix”, but that there were still problems: “We wouldn’t have the capacity out thousands or hundreds of thousands of PCR tests for people to go top a restaurant or a pub… and no test is as good as having a vaccine.”

He said that an implementation group on rapid testing has been set up to look at that issue to look at whether it’s worth expanding antigen testing, but added that if they did, it would be “moving beyond” NPHET’s official advice.

Minister for Tourism and Tourism Catherine Martin was asked today whether the vaccine passports could potentially be used as part of large scale test events or the wider arts sector. 

“I think there’s potential there but the immediate priority I suppose is to get hospitality, indoor hospitality reopening,” Martin said. 

But I do see the potential there that whatever we get working for indoor hospitality may have potential to be applied to the arts and to music and entertainment.

She added: “All options are on the table and that’s why the industry is coming back to reflect on all of the options about reopening safely and then they’ll come back to us on Thursday. What I’m saying is that I see the potential for how it may be used in arts. We’re not at that conversation yet but the immediate focus is on how we can reopen indoor hospitality.”

Rapid testing

Cabinet has approved the establishment of a new expert group on rapid Covid-19 testing.

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Mary Horgan, Professor of Infectious Diseases and a Consultant at University College Cork (UCC), is set to chair the group, which will advise the government ongovernment departments on the use of rapid tests in their sectors.

In a statement, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said he “firmly believes rapid tests have a greater role to play in our fight against Covid”.

Professor Mary Horgan said that “as COVID-19 will be with us for some time, we need to use every tool available to us to live safely”.

“Our public health measures provide layers of protection against a virus that continues to surprise us,” she said.

“Rapid testing should be considered an additional layer to the existing measure that protect us such as vaccination, PCR testing, face masks, contact tracing and social distancing.”

Other members of the group include Jeff Connell of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, Rachel Kenna, Chief Nursing Officer at the Department of Health.

Pete Lunn of the ESRI, Niamh O’Beirne of the HSE, Professors Paddy Mallon, Kingston Mills and Pat O’Mahony and Drs Anna-Rose Prior and Dr Breda Smyth will also sit on the group.

- With reporting by Gráinne Ní Aodha and Lauren Boland

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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