Ireland joins EU Covid travel pass system after ransomware attack delay

Ireland dramatically loosened international travel restrictions on Monday, joining an EU-wide pandemic passport scheme weeks later than the rest of the bloc after a ransomware attack hobbled healthcare IT systems.

Passengers arriving from the EU, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are no longer required to quarantine if they are fully vaccinated, have recently recovered from coronavirus, or received a negative PCR test in the past 72 hours.

Previously all European arrivals were required to quarantine at home for up to two weeks, with the possibility of early release on receipt of a negative PCR test.

All EU member states were connected to a matching digital Covid certificate system on July 1.

The system uses a QR code to verify whether the bearer is vaccinated with an approved jab, recently recovered from coronavirus, or has received a negative test result.

Ireland’s participation was delayed after its healthcare IT systems were paralysed by a ransomware attack in mid-May.

On May 14 the republic’s health authority was forced to shut down its computer systems after what one government minister described as “possibly the most significant cybercrime attack on the Irish State”.

Since then the Health Services Executive (HSE) has been clawing back control of its IT systems.

In a Sunday evening statement the Irish government said over 1.1 million travel certificates have now been emailed to residents, with an additional 600,000 sent by post.

“This represents another milestone on our road through recovery,” the government said in a statement.

“However, if you are not vaccinated, the public health advice is that you avoid high risk activities –- this includes international travel.”

The government said the changes mean arrivals from other countries including neighbouring Great Britain will be able to skip quarantine if they provide proof of vaccination or recent recovery from the virus.

Ireland has suffered 5,018 deaths from coronavirus according to latest official figures.

Case figures are on the rise as the Delta variant has become more established in the country, which recently delayed the reopening of indoor hospitality to fend off increased infections.

However vaccine uptake is high. Government data show 5.1 million doses have so far been administered across the Republic, home to 4.9 million.

Nearly 80 per cent of adults in Ireland have now received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, the department of health said Monday.