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NI Covid certificate: What do businesses have to do, how will it be enforced and can it be forged?

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Stock Image: The COVIDCert NI app that displays vaccination passports for domestic and travel use on November, 17 2021 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph) Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Stock Image: The COVIDCert NI app that displays vaccination passports for domestic and travel use on November, 17 2021 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph) Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

Stock Image: The COVIDCert NI app that displays vaccination passports for domestic and travel use on November, 17 2021 (Photo by Kevin Scott for Belfast Telegraph) Kevin Scott / Belfast Telegraph

On Wednesday it was officially confirmed the Executive plan to roll out a mandatory Covid certification scheme in Northern Ireland.

Legal enforcement of Covid-19 certification entry requirements for nightclubs, bars, restaurants and a range of other settings will be introduced from December 13.

The plans were backed by four parties within the Executive, while the DUP voted against the policy citing concerns over effectiveness and implementation.

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What defines Covid certification?

Covid certification requires proof of full vaccination status, or a negative Lateral Flow Test in the previous 48 hours, or proof of recovery from a positive PCR test in the previous 30 – 180 days.

When will it come into effect?

The regulations are expected to go live on November 29 with a two-week grace period being announced before the certificate scheme will become mandatory on December 13.

Where will it apply?

The primary locations that will see the most usage from the passport are likely to be indoor hospitality venues such as: nightclubs, venues which serve food and drink, cinemas, theatres, concert halls and conference centres.

It will also apply to indoor events with 500 or more attendees with some or all of the audience not normally seated.

Outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees with some or all of the audience not normally seated will also require proof of Covid certification.

While it will be needed for events where more than 10,000 people will be present regardless of whether they are seated

How to download the certificate?

People who have been vaccinated here can obtain certification by downloading the COVIDCert NI app.

From July people have already been been using it to travelling abroad but it was recently updated to allow users to hold a separate certificate for domestic use.

People who have already downloaded their certification for international travel will be given an option to activate their domestic certificate.

That domestic certificate - in the form of a QR code - will scanned by venue staff using the separate COVIDCert Check NI app.

When activating your domestic certificate, you will also be asked to upload a selfie which will then be seen alongside the QR code each time you present your pass.

People who do not have smartphones will be able to apply for a paper version of the certificate by calling 0300 200 7814 between 08:00 and 20:00 GMT Monday to Sunday.

Those with a paper certificate will be required to show photo ID when presenting it to prove their identity.

Once identity checks have been completed, it may take up to 10 working days for the printed certificate to arrive, the NI Direct website says.

What do businesses have to do?

If you run a business or event in Northern Ireland which will be required to expect proof of vaccination, the process involves the use of the COVIDCert Check NI app on a smartphone or tablet.

The app allows QR codes from both the travel and domestic certificates to be scanned.

If the QR code is verified, the display will show a green screen containing a tick.

If the QR code is not verified, the display will show a red screen containing a cross.

Information gathered from those trying to enter the venue will be limited, with only a positive or negative indication of status, alongside the selfie which was uploaded by the person who downloaded the certificate for verification purposes.

How will it be enforced?

Following the announcement to make the plan mandatory, a number of businesses have expressed concern over how the certification system will be able to be enforced.

Presently, venues have already been asked to conduct checks for Covid status, however a paper from the Department of Health said there had been a low uptake of "Covid certification on a voluntary basis by the hospitality sector".

It is understood that venues could be faced with fines of between £1,000-£10,000 for non-compliance, however further details have not yet been provided.

The Health Minister has not yet confirmed the enforcement regime, with a further paper expected to detail this to the Executive ministers in the coming days.

Dr Eddie O’Neill from the Department of Health said further details will be provided in the regulations introduced before the end of the month.

He also said businesses will be supported with producing privacy notices to comply with law around data protection requirements with the certification scheme.

Can people enter venues with a fraudulent certificate?

According to Dr Eddie O’Neill, a number of measures have been introduced within the system to combat fraud.

He told BBC NI there have been 30 applicants for the certificates who have presented what appear to be fraudulent cards claiming to be vaccinated.

He said the QR code venues scan will help prevent this.

“The QR code scanning helps us check this is not a fake. It is very easy for a venue to check the person holding the phone is the person who has the certificate,” he said.

“When you move the screen of the phone the little logo changes its shading so you can see it is not a screenshot.

“We also update with an algorithm, the QR code updates every minute, if you take a screenshot and try and send it to one of your friends to use, the scanner will detect that is a fake.”


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