The Government expects to issue up to 25,000 Covid-19 digital green certs for travel each day from the middle of this week after an initial block of nearly 2 million is approved for those already vaccinated.
Minister of State Ossian Smyth said about 1 million people would receive the pass by email in the days ahead, and about 900,000 people would receive it in the post. With about 25,000 people receiving their second vaccination daily, he said the same number of new certificates would also issue as people became eligible.
The certs will enable quarantine-free travel between European Union countries, but only under certain circumstances. Those who have been vaccinated are automatically eligible, as are those who have recovered from a recent Covid infection.
People who have a clear PCR test from an authorised operator within the previous 72 hours can also obtain the cert, or a clear antigen test taken within 48 hours. Both must be done by a suitably qualified professional, with companies invited to apply for clearance to operate the system and issue certificates.
The certs consist of a QR code, similar to a barcode, which can be scanned at the airport and compared to someone’s identification, such as a passport.
The certificates are to be distributed here by the Revenue Commissioners.
Mr Smyth said the system would “make short trips feasible where they weren’t before”.
There will also be an acceptance of evidence or proof from some non-EU jurisdictions including the US and the UK. “If you have a vaccine certificate from the US or the UK, you won’t have a digital Covid cert but if you can show it, you can come here without isolating,” he said.
However, Mr Smyth said people should check the arrival requirements on the European Commission Reopen.europa.eu website before departure, as different countries may have different definitions and rules around vaccination.
He said to allow extra time to navigate the airport as enhanced checking on the certificates might lead to more queueing time, and warned that those who acquired Covid on holidays would not be allowed re-enter the State unless they had clear tests, urging people to check their insurance policies to cover this eventuality.
There would be spot checks on people returning into the State regarding their compliance with the rules around travel, rather than blanket screening of all arrivals, he said. People will also be able to travel without the cert if they have the card issued to them at the time of their vaccination. However, Mr Smyth said this might take longer and require closer examination by airport officials.
He said it would be some time before airports were back to pre-pandemic capacity, but there would be many more travellers transiting through than there were at the moment. Travellers would also have to fill in their passenger locator forms electronically before going to the airport, he said.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet meets on Tuesday to consider proposals for just over 4,600 additional college places, boosting third-level capacity in medicine, pharmacy, law and other courses.
Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris is expected to seek Government approval for €24 million to fund the extra places including 440 in health sciences such as nursing, pharmacy and medicine, and 450 in science subjects.
There are to be 120 extra places in education-related courses and 102 in law.
There will also be an increase in the number of places in media studies, veterinary, and business.
The Irish Times last week reported how the points needed for some high-demand courses such as medicine and pharmacy are to rise as students who sat the written Leaving Cert last November take up places now offered to them.
Another issue in these courses is the doubling of applications from citizens in other EU states, who no longer want to study in the United Kingdom.
It is understood the plan to add an extra 4,620 college places is in part due to the significant increase in students from the EU as well as a rise in the number of mature students.
Mr Harris is expected to update Government on ongoing work with the Department of Health on workforce planning for the health service and how the numbers studying healthcare can continue to be increased.
The Cabinet is also set to be briefed on an expansion in further education and apprenticeship options.