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Malta confirms seven passengers from Dublin flight must quarantine over 'non-compliant' HSE certs

Passengers on a flight from Dublin on Monday night were told their HSE vaccine cert was not sufficient proof of vaccination.

LAST UPDATE | 21 Jul 2021

MALTA’S DEPARTMENT OF Health has confirmed that seven people on a flight from Dublin that landed in the country on Tuesday morning were required to enter Mandatory Quarantine after their HSE vaccine cards were not accepted.

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 or place of residence if they live in the country. 

The Journal revealed last night that a number of Irish holidaymakers were forced into Mandatory Quarantine despite being vaccinated because they had only a HSE vaccination card and not a DCC.

Over two million DCCs have been sent out in Ireland to people who are fully vaccinated but many did not receive them ahead of Monday’s return of non-essential travel

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

While this is the case for almost all EU countries, the Irish Travel Agents Association has said this is not the case with Malta “as they are currently the only European country refusing fully vaccinated travellers with HSE vaccination cards; this is not happening in other EU countries.”

In a statement to The Journal, the office of Malta’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health confirmed that the HSE cards were not accepted and said this was the case for seven passengers on board the flight. 

“During the health checks on passengers from Flight FR7242 origin Dublin Airport, the absolute majority were compliant passengers as these presented a recognised Vaccination Certificate,” the statement said.

The Irish EU vaccine certificates as all other EU vaccine certificates are recognised locally. Only seven were non-compliant as these presented a Vaccination Record Card, instead of a recognised Vaccination Certificate. 

Maltese authorities have added that those individuals must quarantine until they receive a valid DCC: 

Non-compliant passengers were subject to PCR testing at Malta International Airport and quarantine for 14 days at the quarantine hotel or at their local residence for those having a Maltese Residence Permit. They were also verbally informed that if they manage to download or obtain a copy of the vaccination certificate, they can request approval to terminate their quarantine subject to the necessary verification.

Irish officials

Minister of State for eGovernment Ossian Smyth has said he is concerned to hear about the plight of the Irish holidaymakers and that he will do everything he can to ensure new certs are sent to individuals affected.

A DCC is not a perquisite to travel in the EU this summer as other documentation is also accepted but the DCC was established to streamline the system of checks. 

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. 

The Department of Transport has said it contacted Ryanair and will also be liaising with Maltese authorities about the requirements to travel to the country. 

Today, a spokesperson for Minister Smyth said he has overseen the successful distribution of one million Digital Covid Certs by email and one million certs by post since early last week.

“Unfortunately there are a small proportion of cases where certs haven’t arrived yet and it is hoped that most of these will be received in the coming days,” they said.

“The Minister is concerned to hear about the experience of some Irish people in Malta and will do everything he can to ensure new certs are sent to the individuals involved. Minister Smyth, as he has done before, would also urge people to check the Reopen EU website for the entry requirements of the country they are travelling to before departing.”

The minister and officials are understood to have been in contact with some of those forced into quarantine and hopes have been expressed that the matter will be resolved soon. 

In a statement today, the Irish Travel Agents Association advised prospective holidaymakers to check the rules and regulations of their destination country before departure, and also to check in with their travel agent for the most up-to-date advice in international travel.

The ITAA has also advised travellers to book with a licensed travel agent, as this provides added consumer protection should any issues arise.

The association has called on government to liaise with Maltese authorities and issue Digital Certificates to affected passengers immediately.

Paul Hackett, ITAA President said: “To the best of our knowledge, Malta is the only EU country that is refusing to accept HSE vaccine certificates. This is a situation that can be easily and quickly rectified, if Government issue DCC’s to all affected travellers. The DCC helpline is also under-resourced, which must be addressed as international travel continues to reopen.”

ReOpen EU

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

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

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 on Monday.

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. 

Speaking to the Oireachtas Health Committee this morning, Assistant Secretary General at the Department of An Taoiseach Liz Canavan said the Department of Foreign Affairs has been liaising with authorities, and has been in direct contact with a number of affected citizens who travelled without a DCC.

“In respect of Malta in particular, it is our understanding that Malta has indicated that the DCC is a requirement,” she said.

“On the Reopen EU webpage, and they have indicated that they will not accept handwritten certificates. But the situation underlines our advice to all travellers it’s essential that they familiarise themselves with the inbound rules and process requirements of the country of destination.

“A great deal of information is available online and we’re urging anyone who’s travelling to check the online resources before they finalise their plans.”

- With reporting by Michelle Hennessy and Hayley Halpin

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