Digital green certificates offer solace to travel industry

Varadkar certain Republic’s system will function by end of July despite lack of clarity

The certificates  will allow anyone vaccinated or immune from the virus, or who has tested negative, to travel within the bloc. Photograph: iStock

The certificates will allow anyone vaccinated or immune from the virus, or who has tested negative, to travel within the bloc. Photograph: iStock

 

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar offered solace on Friday to a travel industry growing increasingly vexed with the lack of Government progress with the digital green certificates, which are meant to restore free movement within the EU.

The certificates – originally called “Covid passports” – will allow anyone vaccinated or immune from the virus, or who has tested negative, to travel within the bloc.

The European Commission will have a system allowing member states to verify each other’s documents in place next month, but individual countries have to prepare their own structures to issue the certificates, free, to their residents.

Airlines, the Irish Travel Agents Association and other industry groups fear that no one in Government is taking charge of the work the Republic must do. However, the Fine Gael leader confirmed that the Government should have its system in place by the end of July, which he said was within the time set by the EU for the work.

That almost, but not quite, chimes with what the commission says. It intends to have its system for EU-wide verification ready by June 1st. From that point, member states will begin connecting to it, a process that should finish by the end of next month. The commission does not say at what point exactly, after that, certificates will issue.

The certificates feature a public key, that holds no personal data, but confirms that the holder is vaccinated, immune or tested negative. States hold these on national directories, which are exchanged through the commission’s system, so they can verify each other’s certs.

None of the departments of the Taoiseach, transport or health were very clear about what progress the Government had made when contacted this week. Nevertheless, Varadkar was certain that the Republic’s system would function by the end of July, or possibly the beginning of August.

However, he stressed that member states would have a lot of autonomy over how their “border authorities” use the certificates, indicating that the Government could still be conservative about who it allows into the State. That won’t matter much to those already here though: most of them want the certificates so they can get out.

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