People without EU digital certs will be in the 'slow lane' at airports when international travel resumes, a junior minister says.
Ossian Smyth says that the new certs won't be necessary to fly abroad, but those without the document will face 'much more scrutiny' at immigration.
The Green Party TD was speaking as the Government prepares to start issuing the digital certs from next week.
They'll be issued automatically to the two million people in the country who've been fully vaccinated, ahead of the resumption of international travel from July 19th.
Those who've recovered from COVID-19 within the last six months or received a negative PCR test result before travel can also get a cert.
Minister Smyth spoke to The Hard Shoulder about what people can expect from the new system.
He explained: “Up to now, international travel has been restricted in Ireland for non-essential purposes. But starting on July 19th, you can visit friends & family and go on holidays.
“We’re coming to this after all the other countries - we’ve taken a more cautious approach. But we’re going to launch on Monday week.
"In preparation for that, we’re going to be sending out digital COVID certificates to two million Irish people who’ve been fully vaccinated. They’ll be sent out without you have to ask for them, by email or by post, starting early next week.
"If we have your email address, we’ll be sending it to you by email. If you receive it by post, just like a boarding pass it has a square barcode in the corner, and the information of how you got your vaccination. You can present that at the airport when you go through."
Minister Smyth said those who receive a physical copy of the document in the post can take a picture of the barcode on their phone for easier access, but he recommends holding onto the paper document just in case.
The barcode contains digitally signed information about your name and date of birth that can be matched against your passport.
Details will be verified before you board the plane, and then there'll be spot checks at immigration.
Minister Smyth stressed this is not a prerequisite for travel - people can also bring proof of vaccination or do a PCR test in the days before travelling.
However, he cautioned: “You’ll be in the slow lane, and you’ll be scrutinised much more.
"It’ll be the same way as you arrive at an airport there’s a fast lane for EU and then the lane for everyone else.
“Obviously, it’s not a great situation that people are taking out pieces of paper. The digital COVID cert gives us certainty.”
Short trips 'feasible again'
Some EU countries will have slightly different rules for arrivals, including different age limits for when children need to be tested before travelling - so people are advised to check the Reopen EU website before travelling.
Any Irish citizens who were vaccinated in the North will “eventually” get a cert, but it won’t be issued in the first batch.
Those who’ve tested positive for COVID-19 and subsequently recovered in the last six months can contact a HSE call centre to request a cert, with around 100,000 people believed to be in that category.
Once implemented, the system means vaccinated people won’t need to isolate or do PCR tests, even if coming from non-EU countries such as the UK or US - so long as the countries aren’t ‘red-listed’.
Minister Smyth said all this - including the removal of rules around home quarantine - means travel can now restart again after over a year of tough restrictions.
He explained: “It’s been practically impossible to take a short trip abroad up until now, as you’d have to spend so many days in quarantine at your destination and then so many days again when you get back. Those rules are gone, so it’s possible to do a short trip - it’s feasible again.
“Many people had relatives in the UK who couldn’t come to visit… it was so much trouble, it wasn’t feasible. Now they can visit - I think it’s going to reunify a lot of families.”
He added that options for reopening indoor dining are going to Cabinet next week, and these certs could be used as a “stopgap” to facilitate that despite not having been designed for that purpose.