Q&A: Who is getting the digital Covid cert and how can you obtain yours?

The cert is in the post, or is it? Here’s what you need to know

Digital Covid certs (DCC) are being issued but there is considerable confusion over who gets them and how

Digital Covid certs (DCC) are being issued but there is considerable confusion over who gets them and how

 

Millions of Digital Covid Certs (DCC) are being issued this month. However, confusion reigns over who will receive them, how people can get them, and what precisely they’ll be used for. Here’s what you need to know.

Who is eligible for a digital Covid cert?
There are three categories of people eligible: those who are vaccinated, those who have recovered from Covid, and those with a recent negative Covid test result.

I’m vaccinated, how do I get one?
People who have been vaccinated in mass vaccination centres will receive them over email. About one million of these will be sent by the middle of this week, with people being encouraged to check their spam folder. If you received a jab elsewhere the certificate will be sent in the post. About 160,000 have been sent already, with between 70,000-90,000 being done per day by the Revenue Commissioners. There’s about 900,000 people in this category. The hope is that all 1.9 million, or close enough, will be done by July 19th.

I’ve had Covid, how do I get one?
This is a little trickier, and a little less clear. It can only be done by contacting the helpline being set up to deal with queries. However, people are being asked to hold fire on this – the helpline is only for emergencies at the moment, for example those who are about to travel and have a discrepancy between their travel documents and their Covid cert. So those with other queries are being asked to hold back until the week of the July 19th.

It’s also not quite clear how it will be checked whether you’ve recovered from Covid. The Health Service Executive has a database of everyone who tested positive, but recovery from a diagnosis is a bit more complex.

Also, getting one won’t be immediate – best estimates are that it will take about five days to issue once a valid request goes in. There’s about 130,000 people with a Covid diagnosis in the past six months, which is the period covered. This is one area where several unanswered questions remain.

So what’s this about GPs?
There is confusion between obtaining a DCC and obtaining access to a restaurant or pub for indoor dining. For those recovered from Covid, you can get a DCC only by contacting the call centre. And, while many people will in turn use the DCC to access indoor dining, the legislation on indoor dining makes clear that someone can do so with other “proofs”. Ministers were told on Monday this included confirmation from a relevant medical practitioner.

So, for obtaining a cert, you’ll have to go through the call centre. Once you have that cert, you can access indoor dining, but it does seem other proofs of recovery will be accepted for that specific purpose. Again, there’s no shortage of uncertainty and unanswered questions here.

How do I get one with a test?
This will have to be done with a specially commissioned test from a private operator – it cannot be done using a HSE test result. Private operators who comply with a standard operating procedure from the Department of Health will then be able to issue DCCs when the test has been administered by a professional. At the moment, you’ll be able to get a DCC with a negative PCR or antigen test but, somewhat confusingly, national rules still override the Europe-wide basis under which DCCs are issued. So, for example, you can get a DCC with a negative antigen test, but a negative PCR test is still needed to enter the State if you’re unvaccinated.

I have a problem. Who can help?
As mentioned above, there is a helpline, but it’s not fully operational yet. It’s for urgent and emergency cases only. The operators have no power to skip people up the system and won’t be able to re-issue certs until next week.

What format will the cert take?
A pdf file attached to the email, or a physical copy sent in the post. If you’re travelling, it’s recommended you print off your digital copy as a backup.

Is there an app?
Not yet. The next version of the HSE’s Covid tracker app will have a facility to obtain your cert, which can then be stored in your device’s digital wallet if it has one. But that’s unlikely to happen this side of July 19th.

Will they be checked at the airport?
Yes, on the way out. On the way back, spot checks rather than blanket checks will be employed.

What about travel from outside the EU?
There is work underway at European level on “interoperability” – basically recognition of certs issued by the US, the UK, and elsewhere. For the time being, the overriding rules still apply, meaning if you’re vaccinated, you will not have to quarantine. It’s not clear what will happen to those with a recent Covid infection diagnosed outside the EU – that’s a “matter for Government”, officials told an Oireachtas committee today.

I was vaccinated elsewhere, can I get a cert?
No, not yet – at least in Ireland. The State is only issuing DCCs in relation to work done by the HSE. That may change in later phases, especially for Irish passport holders or those living in the North.

Can I travel without one?
Confusingly – yes. The DCC is not a travel document like a passport, more a means of satisfying entry requirements quickly. So you can still travel with, for example, the card given to you at a vaccination centre. It just may take longer and cause issues on the way.

What else do I need to know?
The key thing to remember is that a DCC isn’t an access all areas ticket for Europe, or the world. There are still complex layers of regional and national rules on a range of issues from vaccination for children to different rules for different countries of departure. So check websites such as reopen.europa.eu for the latest information. It’s also worth bearing in mind that if you’re diagnosed with Covid overseas, you won’t be permitted back into the country until you’ve recovered, so check travel insurance policies for such outcomes before leaving.