State will be ready for EU digital green cert system by July 18th, Smyth says

Junior minister says Irish certificate for the travel scheme has been designed

The State will be ready for the EU digital green certificate system for travel by July 18th, according to Ossian Smyth. File photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

The State will be ready for the EU digital green certificate system for travel by July 18th, according to Ossian Smyth. File photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

The State will be ready for the EU digital green certificate system for travel by July 18th, according to Green Minister of State for eGovernment Ossian Smyth.

The scheme is designed to allow fully vaccinated passengers, those who have recently recovered from Covid-19 and travellers with a negative PCR test result for the disease to travel internationally within the EU.

Mr Smyth said the Irish certificate has been designed and the digital signature required to authenticate the certificate has already been tested with the EU.

Mr Smyth told the Seanad on Monday that adults who have received a Covid-19 vaccine or have recently recovered from the virus will not have to apply for a digital green certificate for international travel within the EU but will have it emailed to them.

The Minister said that “the HSE will contact [such] people by email and they can opt to download it [the certificate] from there. There is, therefore, no requirement in that regard.”

Unvaccinated persons who will be allowed to travel within the bloc once they have a certificate proving a negative PCR test result are required to use an accredited laboratory which will email that certificate to them.

Mr Smyth added that in all cases people can choose whether they want a paper version of the test certificate or to receive it on their phone.

“We need to develop the most efficient way to enable travellers to be checked before departing the island and to enable visitors or those returning to be checked on entry to Ireland, ” Mr Smyth said.

“A lot of work is required within very challenging timescales to enable the system to work properly,” he said. “I am confident that Ireland will be ready for [the EU scheme by] July 18th, however.”

The Government’s reopening plan currently stipulates that from July 19th the State will operate the EU digital Covid certificate scheme, subject to the public health situation at the time.

Concerns expressed

Seanad leader Regina Doherty, who raised the issue before the Upper House on Monday, expressed concern that the process for the scheme was at “design stage”.

“We are four weeks away from Irish implementation of the certificate,” she stated, which she said was two weeks behind other EU members.

Mr Smyth said they were not at the design stage as the specification for the certification was set out by the EU over the past six months.

He said that “data was gathered very carefully all the way through the vaccination stage and stored in the CoVax system, which the HSE is using to keep track of who has been vaccinated and who has tested positive [for Covid-19] in the past nine months”.

Ms Doherty, a Fine Gael Senator, said that so much of the debate in relation to the return to international travel has come from the public health arena, whose “balance of risk is different to that of Government”.

The Seanad leader also called for a public information campaign to deal with misinformation on travel. She pointed to incidents where people flying out of Ireland thought they needed PCR tests on their way out as well as on their way back, when what they needed was to adhere to the requirements of the country they are travelling to.

The EU digital Covid certificate contains only the necessary key information such as name, date of birth, date of issuance, relative information about vaccines, tests or recovery and a unique identifier.

This data remains on the certificate and is not stored or retained when a certificate is verified in another member state.

Mr Smyth said the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is working with the private sector to develop the system to support the negative test certificates, while the Department of Health and the HSE are responsible for issuing vaccination certificates and recovery certificates.

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