Covid-19 digital pass Q&A: How will it work?

Officials say up to 1.8m vaccine certificates will be sent out by post in coming days

It is expected that the letter – or email – will have a barcode or QR code that would confirm the bearer’s vaccination status. Photograph: Paul Scott

It is expected that the letter – or email – will have a barcode or QR code that would confirm the bearer’s vaccination status. Photograph: Paul Scott

 

What’s going on with the digital pass?

Under an EU agreement, the digital pass was due to become operational on July 1st. However, states are allowed to delay by a few weeks, and Ireland said it would have the system up and running by July 19th, the same day that international travel - which currently requires a quarantine period - will fully reopen.

Officials have been working on the system for months and the Government insists it will be ready. Officials say that up to 1.8 million vaccine certificates will be sent out by post or email next week. EU rules say the pass can be digital or paper-based.

By post? That doesn’t sound very digital?

No it doesn’t. It is expected that the letter - or email - will have a barcode or QR code that would confirm the holder’s vaccination status, though there hasn’t been any comprehensive official explanation about how it’s going to work.

However, officials say that the process has been tested and there will be an app to verify the codes and a call centre to deal with queries.

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What happens if you don’t have a digital pass?

The EU is insisting that the right to travel will be restored, though states can still invoke public health measures if they wish to continue restrictions. The Government’s position is likely to be that it will advise unvaccinated people not to travel, but it will not stop them doing so. Likewise, the EU cert is intended to facilitate the right to travel, but not to create it.

Is this the same digital pass that might allow for the reopening of indoor hospitality?

It seems so. Industry representatives met Government officials on Monday and this was one of the possibilities discussed, though the Taoiseach also pointed out that it is currently Government policy not to use vaccination certificates for access to domestic services. That policy could change, of course, though concerns about the spread of the Delta variant could be as much of a factor in determining the re-opening of indoor hospitality.

How would the certificate/pass work? Would you have to show it at the pub door? Would you need a photo ID?

So many questions but the answer is we don’t have any of that sort of detail yet.

So what do we have?

There is a firm Government commitment to have the EU digital pass operational by July 19th. The project has been led by the Department of the Taoiseach with vaccine data provided by the HSE, public health input from the Department of Health and it is to be validated by the Department of Justice. Officials are reasonably confident that they will hit the deadline. The EU expects it to begin then.

And the pubs?

But the use of the digital pass for access to indoor pubs and dining is an entirely separate matter, and one that is only being considered as of now. Government officials and the industry are due to exchange ideas in the coming days and meet again on Thursday with a view to having a plan formulated over the weekend and agreed by Cabinet next week.

If that happens - and if concerns about the Delta variant don’t derail it - indoor hospitality could start preparing for a reopening the following week, on July 19th. Tánaiste Leo Varadkar suggested yesterday that he could bring proposals to Government next week for the reopening, and some sources are sceptical it could all be put together in such a short time given a lot of detail would have to be worked out very quickly.