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Irish holidaymakers in Malta placed in mandatory quarantine after HSE vaccine certs not accepted

The Department of Foreign Affairs says it is aware of the situation.

Malta's international airport.
Malta's international airport.
Image: Shutterstock

Updated Tue 8:35 PM

A NUMBER OF Irish holidaymakers who have arrived in Malta are being told they must complete mandatory quarantine due to entry requirements into the Mediterranean country. 

It is understood that a number of people were told by Maltese authorities that their HSE vaccination certs were not considered valid proof of their vaccination status when they arrived there this week. 

EU member state Malta is part of the Digital Covid Certificate (DCC) system, but those travelling there must be fully vaccinated in order to enter the country without having to quarantine. 

Most countries, including Ireland, are allowing quarantine-free entry into the country if passengers can prove they are either fully vaccinated, have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months or can produce a recent negative test. 

Malta, however, is imposing stricter rules on entry and requires that people are fully vaccinated to avoid having to quarantine in a designated hotel. 

While well over a million DCCs have been sent out in Ireland to people who are fully vaccinated, many did not receive them ahead of yesterday’s return of non-essential travel

Despite this, Minister of State Ossian Smyth has reassured prospective foreign travellers that they should not need a DCC to enter a country, as long as they can prove their vaccination status.

“If you can show evidence that you’ve been vaccinated, or that you’ve been tested, you can still travel,” he said last week and reiterated yesterday. 

But this does not appear to have been sufficient in this case of several passengers from Ryanair flight FR7242, which landed at midnight in Malta last night from Dublin.

One passenger, who has a DCC but whose girlfriend does not, told The Journal that her HSE vaccination cert was not accepted when the couple landed in Malta. This is despite her HSE certificate being checked before she boarded the flight in Dublin.

Robert says his girlfriend phoned the DCC helpline in Ireland last week to ensure she’d have her cert in time for travel and was told the process would be expedited. She has still not received it. 

Upon landing in Malta this morning, the woman was told that her vaccination cert was “not the required one”, with Robert saying he believes about 25 people on the flight were in a similar position. 

He added that the couple were told they would have to go into mandatory quarantine for 14 days, but that they could leave if his girlfriend received her DCC or if they booked a flight home.

A Notification of Mandatory Quarantine provided by Maltese authorities and seen by The Journal notes that the first day of quarantine is 19 July and that it will last until 2 August. 

Helpline

After widely reported issues with Ireland’s DCC helpline yesterday, additional resources were put in place today, but many people have still been reporting issues getting through. 

A second freephone number was then established to deal with “urgent queries only”. 

Robert says that after two hours waiting on the line this morning, the couple were told that his girlfriend should have her DCC in “the next few days”. 

The next return flight from Malta to Dublin is not until Thursday. 

He says that the cost of mandatory quarantine in Malta is not too expensive, but that he is concerned about older passengers on the flight who may be taking the experience badly. 

“There was an older couple I met in the hotel from Ireland who were very shaken,” he said.

“I felt very bad for them as they didn’t know what to do. I tried to get their number to keep in contact and get them sorted but they were flustered and didn’t have it to hand.” 

I know my mother would be very stressed if a similar situation happened to her. I rang the hotel asking for their names or room number to ring and check up on them but they wouldn’t give any details. Hopefully they have someone looking into it for them. I would imagine it would be very stressful for them.
ReOpen EU

The DCC is a standardised EU system to streamline travel checks but the advice being given by Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs is to check what restrictions are in place in the country you are travelling to before departure using the ReOpen EU website

The advice page for people travelling to Malta from Ireland was last updated yesterday.

It states that people can travel to the country if they are fully vaccinated and have a vaccination certificate that is recognised by Malta’s Superintendent of Public Health. 

As well as the DCC, it lists recognised vaccination certs as those from Malta, the UK, UAE, Turkey or the United States. The Journal has asked Malta’s Superintendent of Public Health if Irish vaccination certs are acceptable. 

In a statement to The Journal about the Irish citizens who recently arrived in Malta, Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs said it is “aware of the situation and is liaising with the relevant authorities in Malta”.

“The department stands ready to provide consular assistance to Irish citizens upon request. As with all consular cases, the department does not comment on the details of any specific case,” a spokesperson said. 

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The Department of Transport, meanwhile, said it was notified of this issue by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“The Department has contacted the carrier which operates four flights a week to Malta. The carrier will be engaging with the Maltese authorities regarding requirements for travel to the country,” a spokesperson said. 

The Journal has also sought comment from Ryanair about whether there is to be any change of policy about pre-boarding checks ahead of Thursday’s scheduled flight. 

There was no response from Ryanair at time of publication. 

Additional reporting by Christina Finn

About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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