Cost of rolling out Covid certificate will be ‘substantial’

ireland
Cost Of Rolling Out Covid Certificate Will Be ‘Substantial’ Cost Of Rolling Out Covid Certificate Will Be ‘Substantial’
Kevin Barden at O’Donoghues Bar in Dublin (Niall Carson/PA), © PA Wire/PA Images
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By Cate McCurry, PA

The cost of rolling out the Covid digital green certificates to the state will be “substantial”, an Oireachtas committee has heard.

More than 1.3 million emails and letters with the EU Digital Covid Certificate have been issued to people who are fully vaccinated.

A senior government official said that it has cost €1 million to send out the postal certificates to date.

Barry Lowry, government chief information officer at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, sad the department has spent €500,000 on the certificate scheme.

He also told the Joint Committee on Transport and Communications that there are many other departments involved in the process.

The European Union has pledged to make a donation to each member state to help implement the scheme.

Mr Lowry said that the EU has offered €100 million between EU countries, and, if divided equally, Ireland is in line to receive €1 million.

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“The biggest cost will run to Revenue because it has had a team on since last Friday and were involved in preparation (for the certificates),” Mr Lowry said.

“They will be sending out something approaching one million letters.

“The cost to the state will be substantial.

“But this is an EU regulation so we had no choice but to apply the EU regulation as efficiently as we could.”

Under government plans, the digital Covid certificates will be used to access indoor dining as well as travelling abroad.

The legislation is being fast-tracked through the Oireachtas this week.

Daniel Smith, bartender and son of one of the co-owners of Grogan’s Castle Lounge, at the premises in Dublin’s city centre (Brian Lawless/PA)

People who provide proof they are fully vaccinated, or that they have immunity from recovering from Covid-19 in the last six months, can eat and drink indoors.

Minister of State for Government Ossian Smyth told the committee that 984,000 emails of the digital certs have been sent out, with around 7,500 emails bouncing back.

A call centre, which opened this week and handles emergency calls, has received around 4,000 calls a day.

On Monday, the call centre will expand and open for general queries from the public.

The service is being overseen by the Department of Health, but the calls are being handled by a private firm.

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The cost of the contract was not disclosed to the committee.

From the middle of this week, a separate batch of Covid certificates will be sent to people who have been vaccinated in recent days.

Mr Smyth said the system will move to a daily update where batches of data on those who are fully vaccinated will be collected every day.

Mr Lowry said they are also relying on GPs and pharmacists to upload the data every day.

“Once the data is uploaded, the HSE transfers it from the existing system and then carry out a data quality check on it,” Mr Lowry added.

“We are hoping in the same day they can collate the data and produce a batch file.

“If that batch file is produced overnight, the certificate will be out within either one to two working days or three to fur working days.”

Mr Smyth added: “The way GPs are paid for vaccinations is on a per dose basis and those payments are made after they have submitted the data so there is an incentive for submitting the data as soon as possible.”

Fianna Fáil’s Cathal Crowe asked about the security around data that is collected in bars and restaurants and whether staff will be trained on how to handle sensitive information.

Mr Smyth said the system is still being worked on between the hospitality sector, Fáilte Ireland and Government ministers.

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