COVIDCertNI 'vaccine passport' app launched

  • The Department of Health has launched a new ‘COVIDCertNI’ app, which will enable users to apply for and show proof of full vaccination (two doses) for international travel purposes only.

    The new 'vaccine passport' app is available to download from the Apple app store and is expected to go live on the Google Play store for Android smartphones "shortly".

    The interim certification system that allows vaccinated people in Northern Ireland to travel abroad is under "extreme pressure", the Department of Health (DoH) has said.

    Some people applying for a certificate have had trouble obtaining one online, via post and by telephone.

    The department's statement came before it launched its vaccine certification app, CovidCertNI, on Friday night, which includes a secure QR code, to enable the authenticity to be verified.

    If you are travelling between 26 July and 31 July, the Department of Health said you can apply for a certificate using either the existing NI Direct digital platform or alternatively you can now download the app.

    This is the third new smartphone app related to Covid-19 that the department has produced and Health Minister Robin Swann praised the "digital tools" that have "helped us to respond" to the virus' "many challenges".

    RELATED: Covid-19 contact-tracing app 'prevented at least 100,000 infections' across England and Wales

    The department also stated that the new app service is likely to be popular, which might cause initial delays or capacity problems with accessing the service.

    It added that if you encounter problems, wait a while before trying again. Users are asked to only download and use the app if they are travelling up to the end of July.

    Travellers should check requirements before they travel, as a vaccine certificate may be required for entry into some international countries but is not a requirement for every country.

    There has been increased controversy surrounding the ethics of vaccine passports across the UK in recent weeks, with MPs on both sides in the House of Commons raising concerns over civil liberties. 

    RELATED: Mass digital health passports 'should be postponed until COVID-19 vaccines made available to all'

    Numerous MPs have already signed the Big Brother Watch declaration against “Covid status certification to deny individuals access to general services, businesses or jobs” in recent months.

    The Guardian reports that more MPs said “they were unlikely to back such a move, especially if it remained a vaccine-only pass that did not recognise a negative test result or evidence of antibodies.”

    Mark Shaw, CEO of data services platform, Tento Applied Sciences said that some of the declaration's assumptions are "simply incorrect". 

    “I wholeheartedly agree that individuals should not be required to share their own personal health information with unknown third parties or with anyone in authority who demands it," he said. 

    RELATED: EY: Using data to help the Department of Health during the pandemic

    "But I strongly disagree with the suggestion that ‘events and businesses are either safe to open for everyone, or no one’. It creates a false dichotomy that either everyone is safe, or nobody is safe. If employers or event organisers don’t take action to properly manage workplace or venue safety, then they risk curtailing the safety and freedom of movement for the majority.

    "The vital point to make is this: innovations in health technology must ensure self-sovereign identity. This means the data held about an individual is owned by the individual and stored on their device.

    "And, in the case of medical data, that data can be delivered from healthcare professionals to the device in an encrypted format, and the user chooses how they share their information. Individuals need to take control of their own data."

    RELATED: Ulster University collaborates with tech firms to analyse links between Covid-19 and patients

    Travellers still have to adhere to the testing and isolation requirements (if appropriate) on their return to Northern Ireland. Please familiarise yourself with these requirements before you travel:

    Travellers should check the latest UK Government travel advice which will give updated information on travel to individual countries, including any Covid-related entry requirements:

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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