Miriam Lord: A nation waits anxiously for Leaving Cert and digital green cert

Everyone poised to jet away for the Med just as soon as that vital paperwork comes through

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan’s cautious approach left sinking hearts all round. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan’s cautious approach left sinking hearts all round. Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

The country is in bits over the Leaving Cert.

Including people who never imagined they would end up in their later years fretting about the damn thing all over again.

So the usual old platitudes won’t wash.

“I know the Leaving Cert is very important to you. But, honestly, it’s not the be-all and end-all. In years to come you will look back at this time and wonder what all the worry and stress was about.”

That kind of thing.

We want our Leaving Certificates and we want them now!

The Taoiseach, who wasn’t in the Dáil on Tuesday because he was in some place called “abroad”, seemed quite optimistic about the overall results when asked about the prospects for this year’s cohort in Ireland – the largest ever, with numbers running into the millions and a dangerous rump of mature students waiting to run amok if they fail.

“Full steam ahead,” he told reporters in Brussels, indicating that the proposed digital green certificate for travel within EU countries is all set to go. He chose a phrase associated with old boats, but struck an optimistic note nonetheless for people yearning to fly again.

Earlier in the day, the junior minister for communications Ossian Smyth was also very upbeat about a full resumption of air travel in Europe, calming jittery Leaving Cert nerves brought on by a newspaper report that the HSE cyberattack had thrown the digital green pass plans into chaos. He told Morning Ireland he expects Ireland to start dishing out the certificates within a week of the EU passing the legislation.

‘Chocks away’

In the Dáil, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan stood in for the Taoiseach at the first Leaders’ Questions of the week. With summer holidays looming, the Minister for Transport was perfectly placed to yell “chocks away” and start the nation’s propeller.

Eamon did his best but his cautious approach left sinking hearts all round.

With Micheál Martin and Leo Varadkar otherwise occupied, the third leg of the Coalition stool carefully considered Opposition questions on the lifting of Covid-19 travel restrictions. Anything vaguely contentious was gingerly nudged to one side with the promise he would raise the matter with the Taoiseach and/or “the relevant experts”.

The digital pass wasn’t mentioned until the House got around to hearing statements on the aviation industry in a session dominated by TDs from constituencies in the vicinity of airports.

The closest intervention during Leaders’ Questions came from Labour leader Alan Kelly, who spoke on behalf of the 60-to-70 year olds who contacted him worried about their level of protection against the new Indian variant of the Covid-19 virus.

This age group was amongst the first to get the jab but will be among the last to be fully vaccinated. The majority of them got the AstraZeneca vaccine and have to wait at least 12 weeks for their second dose. “That’s three months,” Kelly added helpfully.

“What is really worrying” is that the latest UK research data shows that the first dose provides only 30 per cent of protection against this powerful new strain. “It means that of all the cohorts vaccinated, this cohort will have the lowest level of protection, the longest waiting time for a follow-up dose and they have the greatest risk of ending up in hospital.”

Interval

Across the water, the interval between doses has been shortened to eight weeks. Could the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) revisit their strategy for treating 60-to-70 year olds in the light of the new research?

Eamon Ryan wasn’t going to get involved in recommending any course of action requiring medical expertise. “We constantly have to be vigilant and concerned about what is happening with Covid-19,” he replied to Kelly, who knew that already. What about the AZ first-timers who have “amazed” him by coming forward with their concerns in such big numbers?

“I will present the argument to the relevant experts but can’t commit to taking up the advice,” was the Minister’s encouraging response.

The 60-to-70 year olds will be thrilled.

But he did have some good news for Alan Kelly’s worried seniors. By the time international travel restrictions are lifted, they too should be free to fly off and misbehave in the sunny fleshpots along the Med with the rest of the Leaving Certificate class of 2021.

Although, like everyone else, they would prefer to get their Leaving Cert earlier and be able to jet away as soon as possible. Everybody wants to get their hands on that precious certificate – it can be paper or digital – as soon as possible. Get those results through now.

Then Eamon Ryan informs the Dáil they mightn’t be through until the middle of August, which put quite a damper on Tuesday’s proceedings.

“Given that the digital green certificate might not be in widespread use until at least mid-August, it would not seem reasonable to expect fully vaccinated people to wait for the digital green certificate before allowing freedom from current pre-arrival PCR and quarantine requirements,” he said.

At this rate the Government will have to open a special Leaving Cert hotline for the stressed and the Vitamin D deprived.

And designate a special number for the increasingly worried and annoyed AztraZeneca people, who they would do well not to ignore.

Because it’s highly unlikely that Alan Kelly is the only TD who has been getting grief about the situation.