Letters from doctors are part of Government plan for hospitality reopening

Anger that no prior notice of announcement regarding use of letter was provided to GPs

Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin had said that people who recovered from Covid could receive a letter from their GP to dine indoors or travel. File photograph: iStock

Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin had said that people who recovered from Covid could receive a letter from their GP to dine indoors or travel. File photograph: iStock

 

After a day of confusion over the Government’s new plans to allow indoor hospitality, it has emerged that the Cabinet did after all intend to allow family doctors issue letters to confirm patients had recovered from Covid-19.

Minister for Tourism Catherine Martin said ahead of Cabinet meeting that letters confirming people have recovered from Covid-19 can be provided by family doctors.

Within a short time of her interview on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, the Irish Medical Organisation sent an email to all its members saying no arrangement was in place for family doctors to issue letters or certificates to their patients who had tested positive for Covid-19.

The IMO instructed its members not to issue those letters.

However, in a subsequent radio interview, Minister of State and Green Party colleague, Ossian Smyth apologised for the misunderstanding over the issuing of recovery certificates.

He said that GPs will have no role in issuing letters or certificates. “I will be issuing the recovery certificates,” he said.

“If anyone has tested positive, they should not involve their GP. They should contact the call centre which has been established. The call centre will have a record of all cases and can issue the cert,” he explained.

However, it is understood that the memo presented to Cabinet on Tuesday morning states that aside from the certificates issued by State vaccination centres, “other confirmation” from a relevant medical practitioner could be used for book and enter to premises.

The Irish Times understands that that could take the form of a letter issued by a GP. The only additional stipulation is that a photo ID would be required for verification.

Incorrect

Government sources said Mr Smyth was incorrect in saying GP would have no role. They said he was referring to the requirements for the EU digital travel certificate - for which he has taken most of the lead - and not to the separate requirements that would apply to the hospitality certificate.

However, while the Cabinet memo did indeed envisage a role for GPs in producing a letter, it was accepted there had been no prior communication with medical organisations before Ms Martin’s disclosure on Tuesday morning.

Speaking on Today with Claire Byrne, Dr Ilona Duffy said the first she had heard of the arrangement was on radio this morning. She said that GPs were already under considerable pressure dealing with patients as a result of the pandemic and this would add an extra workload.

Dr Ray Whalley also pointed out that it would be easier for those who wished to cheat the system to forge a GPs letter, compared to the certificate issued by the HSE which would contain an individual QR code.

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan could not clarify on Tuesday whether GPs will play a role in providing certificates confirming people have recovered from Covid-19.

Mr Ryan said a working group is currently going through the details of the digital Covid cert, which will take a number of days.

“We only just passed the legislation in Government, it has still to go through the Dáil and I think it is appropriate then that we give ourselves a number of days to work through the final details, including the role of GPs or others so that’s the job of the working group and they’re working as we speak,” he told reporters.