More than 4,500 have already applied for temporary vaccine passport
A temporary “vaccine passport” scheme in Northern Ireland has received more than 4,500 applications in its first few days of operation, Health Minister Robin Swann has told the Assembly.
During ministerial question time at Stormont today, Robin Swann updated MLAs on efforts to produce a Covid status certificate system for international travel, and also on plans to roll out walk-in vaccination centres.
Mr Swann said his officials had been working on both a comprehensive certificate system (CCS) and an interim one to allow people from Northern Ireland to travel to countries which require proof of double vaccination for entry.
He said: “The final CCS will take the form of a printed certificate supplemented by a mobile phone app.
“This system will provide internationally accepted proof that either the holder has received both vaccine doses at least two weeks prior to travel or has demonstrated immunity to the virus or has received a negative test in the preceding 72 hours.
“The comprehensive solution is expected to be available before July 19.”
Mr Swann added: “A second interim solution was developed in an incredibly short period of time. The service was provided after some countries unilaterally decided to require vaccine proof ahead of the EU vaccine passport scheme becoming fully functional.”
Mr Swann said that the interim certificates, which would expire on July 20, were being made available from three vaccination centres.
The scheme went live on Friday night. It is free of charge and applicants can apply online by visiting the NI Direct website.
Mr Swann said: “There has been an incredible public response. As of 1pm today there have been 4,500 applications and for 125 of those travelling today, certificates were made available from three collection points yesterday afternoon.”
The application process for the interim documentation includes cross-checking with details given when vaccine appointments were booked.
The full, internationally recognised vaccine certification system is currently being finalised and being subjected to cyber security checks.
The full system will provide certification to an agreed UK-wide format and will be fully operational when the interim arrangements expire.
SDLP MLA Justin McNulty asked: “Minister, you will recognise the race against the Delta variant is on. Will temporary vaccination stations become more available to let people get ahead of this Delta variant?”
Mr Swann said: “Other people have used the terminology that this is now a race between the vaccine and the variant and I would concur with that because the more people we can get vaccinated, not just with a first dose, but also their second dose, the more protection we can give to the population of Northern Ireland.
“All trusts are moving forward with walk-in vaccine centres for the first dose, located in towns and villages across Northern Ireland where we have identified low uptake of vaccinations.”