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NI passengers on fresh headaches over Covid vaccine passport

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The 'Covid passport' system has been beset with problems.

The 'Covid passport' system has been beset with problems.

The 'Covid passport' system has been beset with problems.

For the second week in a row, passengers travelling from Northern Ireland are facing travel headaches over problems securing a Covid vaccine passport.

The new COVIDCert NI app was launched on Monday, but the Department of Health had to pause the service after a data breach in the scheme saw some people being sent other applicants’ personal information.

Last week, a temporary online measure also caused widespread anger as many travellers were left in limbo.

It comes as the Executive has relaxed other travel rules, with people from the EU and US no longer required to self-isolate when arriving in Northern Ireland from Monday and the return of international cruises.

Damian Murphy is from the Association of Northern Ireland Travel Agents.

While welcoming the latest lifting of restrictions, he said fixing the Covid passport problems would do more to help local tourism recover.

“The issue is serious and has been from day one, I’m always really guarded in what I say about it but really it has not been one of our better success stories,” he told BBC Radio Ulster.

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Mr Murphy said he was aware of two people travelling to Palma on Friday, with one securing their passport and the other left waiting and unable to get any help on the phone.

He agreed that sorting out the vaccine passport issues would be far more beneficial for local tourism in the short term.

“Vaccine passports make it much easier for people to travel to most European destinations...today’s news is good but the impact on our sector will be minimal in the short term,

“If we could get this vaccine passport sorted out it would have a big impact for us.

“It’s supposedly been available for three or four weeks, the number of days you can actually go in and access the thing has been minimal.

“So yes, that would be a bigger plus for our industry and I really wish they would have a look at it soon and get it correct.”

Pauline McMahon from Dungannon has been in Spain since June and her husband Neil has been waiting anxiously to join her.

Due to fly out on Monday, he has been trying to secure his Covid passport for a week with no luck.

“Basically the system has just let us down. I’m over in Spain at the moment and people from all other countries are getting backwards and forwards with their online Covid certificates.

“We’re just not getting anywhere in Northern Ireland. We have a place in Spain and I do contracting so we’re back and forwards all the time.

“But it’s the first time my husband will have been here in over a year. Now we’re going to have to pay for PCR tests, but why should we have to pay for that when our system is letting us down?”

Doreen Purce from Portballintrae has been in France with her husband since June.

She said the latest regulations in France over proof of vaccines mean they will now have to wait longer to be admitted to things like restaurants.

“We have no proof that we’ve been vaccinated and we’re sitting here in France. I know in the grand scheme of things it’s not much, but the Northern Ireland Executive have known for a long time that this is going to happen at some stage.

“I can’t understand why it hasn’t been sorted out before now.”

The Department of Health issued an update yesterday evening, to say the Northern Ireland COVID Certification Service will be available from 9am on Friday, to allow for those travelling on August 1 in the first instance.

Some applications are to be processed manually and applicants will be contacted by email on what to do as they progress.

The Department added that while service has resumed, it is being managed “in a controlled and phased way” and will be strictly limited to the highlighted dates.

The first process will involve proof of identity, with applicants notified on requesting a certificate.

Further communication is to follow on Friday for those travelling after August 1.

Those travelling after August 1 are told not to apply, as it will delay the restoration of normal services.

Further information is available on the NI Direct website.


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