Northern Ireland news

Health chiefs 'aim' to open vaccine passport scheme to Northern Ireland residents by next week

The EU Covid digital certificates were issued to residents in the Republic. Northern Ireland is to have a separate scheme
Seanín Graham

HEALTH officials in Northern Ireland "aim" to open a Covid vaccination passport scheme to applications by next week following the rollout of the EU digital certificate.

The north is currently operating a temporary system only for residents flying to countries where they must prove they've received two jabs to gain entry.

Last month, the Department of Health said it hoped to have a permanent scheme in place by July 19, which will be "internationally recognised proof a person has had both vaccine doses".

When asked how long it would take for northern residents to access a certificate to enable them to use indoor restaurants/bars in the Republic - where it is expected digital/hard copy proof of double vaccinations is necessary - the department referred The Irish News to a Q&A section of a press release.

The release states that "the aim is to have the new system available from 20 July onwards". The department last night clarified this will be the "week beginning July 19".

The north's vaccine certificates will initially be in specialised hard copy format.

However, the process of applying for and receiving hard copy certs is expected to take 10 days, according to the department website.

A digital alternative will be available by mid-August.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "...there is no requirement to have vaccine certification to enter the RoI. At present, in the interim scheme, certification for passengers travelling to countries where certification is mandatory for entry and those with imminent travel dates is being prioritised."

Fully vaccinated people in the Republic began receiving their EU Digital Covid Certificates yesterday.

Northern Ireland residents are not eligible for the scheme due to Brexit.

One million certs were issued to residents south of the border via email while another million will be posted to those who were vaccinated in different settings, such as at their GP, by next week.

The certificates have a QR code, which contains encrypted data on a person's vaccination status obtained from health authorities in the Republic.

Those who have recovered from Covid in the past six months can apply for a Certificate of Recovery from a dedicated helpline, which is expected to be up and running by next week.

According to a letter leaked to RTÉ, legislation to allow vaccinated people to eat and drink inside bars and restaurants in the Republic will be operable for three months.

The Dublin government last night approved legislation for resumption of indoor hospitality.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said they will reopen indoor hospitality on a phased basis and legislation will make it clear that this will be in line with advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team.

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