The new European Digital Green Cert is not designed to be a vaccine passport but merely a document to facilitate international travel, the Government has insisted.
The regulation is proposed to be a temporary pandemic measure, lasting for 12 months, it has been confirmed.
With the prospect of international travel expected to return by July, European Minister Thomas Byrne said the Government is committed to the proposal, which will be an obligation under the European Union, and it will be a right of citizens to obtain this certificate in accordance with the terms of the regulation.
Speaking in the Seanad, Mr Byrne said the government is keen to ensure that every effort is made to achieve alignment of travel policy across the European Union to prepare for the opening of travel again.
He said the digital cert proposal will facilitate free movement within the European Union through a common framework for the issuance, verification and acceptance of certificates relating to vaccination, testing and recovery.
This technical tool will include proof of vaccination, proof of a negative test result or proof of immunity after recovery from a recent Covid-19 infection.
Ireland and other EU member states will decide how to use the certificate as part of national travel measures, Mr Byrne said.
The proposal is rapidly moving through the steps at EU level. The European Parliament adopted its mandate on April 29 and the parliament and European Council commenced negotiations this week.
“I understand they will continue into next week and the following week. Operational aspects for the interoperable certificate system are currently being progressed in parallel with the proposed regulations and the negotiations, which is understandable due to the significantly short time frame,” Mr Byrne said.
Independent Senator Sharon Keoghan said she had real concerns about the introduction of a Covid-19 passport which could result either now or in the future in discrimination, surveillance of some description, or would impinge in an unjustifiable way on the fundamental rights and freedoms that every citizen should enjoy.
Fianna Fáil Senator Lisa Chambers said that as an island nation we cannot close ourselves off from the world forever.
At 1:30 today the Seanad will be debating the proposed EU Digital Green Certificate, a pathway to allowing a return to EU wide safe travel for citizens. You will be able to get a cert if you have either:— Lisa Chambers (@lichamber) May 7, 2021
🔅have a negative test
🔅or have recovered from Covid-19 pic.twitter.com/LrojQIczQm
“Every effort will be made to make this as seamless as possible with the least amount of disruption to travellers. No system is perfect and the main thing we need to watch out for is that we do not discriminate against those who may not be able to afford expensive tests. We must, therefore, find a solution to that issue to make sure affordable testing is available to everyone,” she said.
She and other Senators welcomed proposals from MEPs that a 12-month limit was appropriate.
“I also believe this is appropriate. There should be a sunset clause on this and it should not be something that lasts indefinitely,” she said.
Labour Senator Mark Wall said the Irish tourism industry is facing its greatest ever crisis.
“The headline figures it is suffering are mind blowing.”
Mr Wall also spoke of the important role that rapid antigen testing can play in protecting this country and ensuring that travel in and out of it can begin.