Irish holidaymakers in quarantine in Malta, as country does not accept HSE vaccine card

Department of Foreign Affairs liaising with Maltese authorities over Irish tourists

Malta does accept the digital Covid certificate. File photograph: Collins

Malta does accept the digital Covid certificate. File photograph: Collins

 

The Department of Foreign Affairs is liaising with authorities in Malta in relation to Irish holidaymakers who travelled there without a digital Covid certificate and who now must complete mandatory hotel quarantine.

The holidaymakers travelled to Malta, which is a member of the European Union, without a cert having been unable to obtain one before departure.

Liz Canavan, assistant secretary general at the Department of Taoiseach, said on Wednesday the Department of Foreign Affairs has been in contact with authorities in Malta.

“Our understanding is that Malta has indicated that the digital Covid certificate is a requirement on the Re-open EU webpage and they have indicated that they will not accept handwritten certificates,” Ms Canavan told the Oireachtas Committee on Health.

“But the situation underlines our advice to all travellers that it is essential that travellers familiarise themselves with the inbound rules and process requirements for their country of destination.”

A spokeswoman for Minister of State Ossian Smyth, who is overseeing the rollout of the Covid certs, said “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”.

“Minister Smyth, as he has done before, would urge people to check gov.ie/traveland reopen.europa.eu for the entry requirements of the country they are travelling to before departing.

He has been monitoring the situation in Malta and is working with the Department of Foreign Affairs to provide all possible assistance to resolve this,” the spokeswoman said.

One million certs have been distributed by email and a further million have been posted out to people since early last week, the spokeswoman added.

HSE Covid certificate

One holidaymaker who arrived in Malta on Monday night told The Irish Times he had presented a cert showing he was fully vaccinated but his girlfriend’s certificate had not arrived on time despite her being fully vaccinated three weeks ago.

He said her HSE vaccination card was not accepted upon landing nor was her negative PCR test.

“She called the helpline last week and they said it shouldn’t be a problem. As a backup she also went and got a PCR test because at the time they were saying that was fine. Then we got there last night and they said that wasn’t valid anymore,” he said.

The couple have to pay for a hotel in Malta for the 14 days unless the woman’s vaccine certificate comes through via email, which they have been contacting the helpline to arrange.

“They said they have escalated it so hopefully it comes through. Otherwise we’re stuck here. But we are not an isolated case. About half the people on the flight were put into quarantine,” he said.

The hotel they had booked for their holiday stay is allowing the couple to push their booking out, but they are “more concerned” about getting there before their holidays run out.

“We’re not sure what to do. It’s quite hard to believe that it’s just an email they have to send. They had all her details when we rang up so you’d think it’s as simple as just clicking send,” said the man.

Malta is part of the Covid cert system alongside other European Union member states, but is only allowing those who are fully vaccinated to enter the country without having to quarantine.

Most other EU member states, including Ireland, are allowing entry into the country without mandatory hotel quarantine if passengers can show that they are either fully vaccinated, have recovered from Covid-19 in the past six months or can produce a negative PCR test.

The Irish Travel Agents Association (ITTA) has 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 international travel advice.

Paul Hackett, president of the ITTA, 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 certs to all affected travellers. The cert helpline is also under-resourced, which must be addressed as international travel continues to reopen,” he said.