As travel queries begin to grow and people begin to question where they can travel to….we ask the pertinent questions of the Department of Health……
Am I allowed to go on holiday? Will I be fined?
Leisure travel is permitted, although try to restrict travelling as much as possible. You won’t face a fine on return to Northern Ireland unless you fail to comply with the international health restrictions applicable to where you have travelled from. You can check those restrictions at Coronavirus (COVID-19): travel advice | nidirect(external link opens in a new window / tab).
Where can I find information on what I need to do when travelling internationally?
The first thing to do is check the Government’s travel advice for your destination country, which you can find at Foreign travel advice – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)(external link opens in a new window / tab). Included in this advice is information on the entry requirements set by that country (with appropriate links to the country’s official government website), for example what you need to do in terms of testing and isolation on arrival, and what role, if any, Covid Certificates/Vaccine Passports haves in those requirements.
For example, as at 1 July, the requirements for entry to the Balearic Islands(external link opens in a new window / tab) are the completion of a health check form and proof of vaccination or negative test (there are some exemptions, including for children aged under 12).
Malta’s entry requirements(external link opens in a new window / tab) (also at 1 July) require all travellers aged 12 and over to have proof of vaccination with those 5-12 years old travelling with a vaccinated adult permitted entry on proof of a negative Covid test.
Note, as per above, the need to check Foreign travel advice – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)(external link opens in a new window / tab) for the latest entry requirements, the Balearics and Malta are given as examples of different approaches and only correct at 1 July.
You should also refer to the travel advice on the NI Direct website at Coronavirus (COVID-19): travel advice | nidirect(external link opens in a new window / tab), which includes information on what is required from you before you return to Northern Ireland and what is required on arrival in Northern Ireland.
Do I need a Covid Certificate/Vaccine Passport to travel within the UK?
No. You shouldn’t need one either to travel to the Republic of Ireland, however you should check the current travel advice at Entry requirements – Ireland travel advice – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)(external link opens in a new window / tab).
How and when can I access a Covid Certificate/Vaccine Passport in Northern Ireland?
The first phase of the Covid Status Verification Service will be live on or before 19 July 2021. That will enable you, after you have received your second vaccine dose and have plans to travel, to telephone and request a Covid Certificate that should be recognised internationally. This will only provide proof of vaccination status and will only be valid from 14 days after your second vaccine dose.
You will need to have the following details at hand for the call: name, address and date of birth. You may also need to know your healthcare number and the details of where and when you received your vaccination.
We are working on a digital certification process, which should be in place later in the summer and that will also include evidence of negative PCR COVID tests, as an alternative to vaccination, and any agreed exemptions.
How long will it take the certificate to arrive?
Once you have successfully made a request, it will take up to 10 working days via post for the certificate to arrive at your address.
Can I use the NHS app?
No, your healthcare record is not shared with other UK nations. The NHS app links to GP systems in England and Wales, not Northern Ireland.
I still have the card I was given at the vaccination centre; can I use that instead of a certificate?
It is unlikely the country you want to travel to will accept this as proof of vaccine as it doesn’t provide the level of detail required by international standards at this time. Only certificates that meet international standards and are of the type agreed in the UK (with necessary security features to prevent fraud) are likely to be accepted.
Why is it taking so long to develop a certificate in Northern Ireland compared to the rest of the UK?
We are starting from scratch in the development of a Covid Certification Service, which necessitates linking a number of health systems across Northern Ireland. In England for example, the NHS app has been in use for some time and even then, colleagues there are still working on changing it to fully support Covid Certification, including linking to test results.
I am unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons – can I still have a certificate?
Unfortunately not at this stage; we are working though to include exempted people in the next phase of development work. You should check the entry requirements of the country you want to travel to, proof of a negative Covid test may be accepted in the same manner that proof of vaccination is.
What is the point in allowing travel to a country which places restrictions on NI arrivals?
The Covid pandemic has resulted in travel restrictions globally. In the same way that the Northern Ireland Executive has put restrictions on arrivals into NI, other countries have placed restrictions and conditions on those arriving into their country from NI. These restrictions are in place to help prevent the spread of Covid, however, there are instances where travel is necessary and we want to support those travellers where possible.
Am I able to get an EU Covid Certificate in Northern Ireland?
EU Covid Certificates are only available to those who have had their vaccination in an EU Member State. If you had your vaccination in the Republic of Ireland, you may be able to access an EU Covid Certificate and you should check their government website to find out more: gov.ie – EU Digital COVID Certificate (www.gov.ie)(external link opens in a new window / tab).
Do I need a certificate to attend sports or music events in Northern Ireland?
The Covid Status Verification Service and Covid Certificates/Vaccine Passports have been developed to support international travel. Although specific events in England have been using certification to inform research, there are currently no plans to legislate for their use in Northern Ireland.