The Government is "ready" to issue certificates clearing one million Irish residents to travel in Europe, according to Minister of State, Ossian Smith.
Speaking at a conference on Thursday, he confirmed Government plans to adopt the EU’s digital Covid certificate, allowing free movement in the bloc to anyone vaccinated, tested negative, or recovered from Covid, from July 19th.
Around 2.5 million people are currently eligible for the certificates, as they fall into one of those three groups.
Mr Smith said the State was ready to issue one million vaccination certificates to people who registered through the Health Services Executive (HSE) portal.
“So we can instantly contact one million people by email to say you were vaccinated, you are eligible to have a certificate on your phone, so they will be offered it,” he said.
Mr Smith noted that there were a further 1.3 million certificates that would be issued on the basis of data from GPs, but added the recent cyber attack on the health service delated processing some of this.
“In terms of recovery certs, we have about a quarter of a million people on our system that we have recorded as having recovered from Covid in the last nine months, so that’s another quarter of a million that we could issue right away.”
He told the conference, co-hosted by the European Commission Representation in Ireland and European Movement Ireland, that the Government was working with laboratories on developing certificates to validate negative tests.
The Minister outlined the progress as the European Commission confirmed that the Republic was in a “ready” state to issue the certificates.
Airline Ryanair welcomed the news, but warned that the State continued to lag countries including Spain, Poland and Germany, which have begun issuing certificates.
Mr Smith cautioned that the certificates were not travel documents, so entry to another EU state could hinge on that country’s pandemic restrictions.
Addressing the same conference, members of the European Parliament said the certificate was meant to end the conflicting patchwork of rules that had hit EU travel since the pandemic struck last year.
Covid-19 has not ended EU citizens’ right to free movement, Dutch MEP Sophie in ’t Veld, stressed that “every European citizen” had the right to free movement. “That right has not disappeared because of Covid,” she said.
Irish MEP Billy Kelleher said that once the Republic adopted the certificate on July 19th, it should allow travel for Europeans in and out of the State.
“We do not want to see any additional barriers for people wanting to leave or people coming in. We should treat all European citizens in a fair and equitable manner,” he argued.
Deirdre Clune, MEP also said it was time to revive travel.