Covid-19: Your coronavirus questions answered

Published
Related Topics
Image source, Reuters

There are many questions which people in Northern Ireland have about how the latest restrictions and health advice will affect their lives.

BBC News NI has been looking at some of the popular topics raised following the most recent edition of Coronavirus Catch-Up.

The programme, which went out on Thursday, answered questions submitted by you, the audience.

However, with time constraints, it was not possible to answer some of the many questions that were sent in.

Below, we answer some of the questions sent our way and look at the rules around everything from vaccine certification to booster jabs and international travel.

Can the original vaccine cards be used instead of the COVIDCert NI app to enter venues?

Yes, they can be used.

Although Stormont ministers have encouraged the use of the COVIDCert NI app, which relevant venues can scan to reveal a person's vaccine status, there are other ways to gain entry.

The certificate scheme was designed to reduce transmission at venues such as bars, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and nightclubs.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
A paper form of the app certificate can also be requested

To apply for this, users must first apply for a travel certificate, before then applying for a domestic certificate which contains vaccine information and photographic identification.

However, the original paper vaccination cards can be used alongside photographic identification, or a paper certificate can be requested by phoning 0300 200 7814.

Besides these methods, a negative lateral flow test recorded in the previous 48 hours and reported to a government website, or proof of a positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test in the previous 30 to 180 days are also valid.

Can I use the app if I am from outside Northern Ireland?

According to the Department of Health, the domestic certificate is only available to Northern Ireland residents who have had both vaccines in Northern Ireland.

However, the COVIDCert Check NI app, which is used by venues to scan the quick response (QR) codes, will be able to scan QR codes on equivalent certificate apps which meet European Union (EU) and World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, or where there is a bilateral agreement in place with the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.

Are there exemptions from needing to show Covid status, such as for certain age groups?

Some groups of people are exempt, such as under 18s, who do not have to show their status at any setting.

Also, people who work or perform at the relevant venues, hotel residents or emergency workers such as police, medical responders and regulators who need to gain entry to carry out their work.

People who cannot be vaccinated for clinical reasons or who are taking part in a clinical trial related to coronavirus, will have to upload evidence of their situation to the COVIDCert NI app.

While a number of venues do require proof of Covid status, many businesses and other services will not have to ask.

These range from places of worship and services such as weddings and funerals, to outdoor markets and hospitality venues at ports and airports.

Can I get the booster and how long do I need to wait after getting a second vaccine?

The short answer to the first part of this question is it depends on a person's age group and how quickly the rollout continues through to over 18s.

At present, people aged 50 and over in Northern Ireland who received the second dose of a vaccine more than three months ago can receive a booster jab at a health trust hub or at some pharmacies and GP practices.

The Department of Health has specified that 40 to 49-year-olds are next - however, people in this category can already receive the booster if they had their second jab more than six months ago.

The next phase of the rollout will reduce the vaccine interval for this age cohort to three months, which the department said it hoped to reach "as quickly as possible".

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
People who received vaccines outside of Northern Ireland may be able to receive a booster jab

The booster vaccines being used in Northern Ireland, for those who have already received two vaccine doses, are produced by Pfizer and Moderna.

According to advice by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), the booster jab does not need to match the version originally received in the first or second doses.

To book the booster when eligible, use this link.

An exception to the phased rollout is people aged over 12 who are severely immunosuppressed. They will be contacted by a trust clinician or their GP.

The recommendation is that a fourth dose will be available to this group also, administered three months after the third dose.

I have been vaccinated outside of Northern Ireland, can I get a booster here?

Yes.

The Department of Health has said this is possible, however, there may be a requirement to provide evidence of the previous vaccines before receiving a booster.

I am travelling to Spain in the coming weeks, do I need to take a PCR test?

Many countries are following different rules to allow entry.

Spain, like all EU countries, will accept the COVIDCert NI app or paper form certificate, if dated after 1 November, as proof of vaccine status.

Alternatively, Spain will also accept documentation showing you have taken a negative PCR test within 72 hours of travelling.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Fully vaccinated people can end post-travel isolation if they return a negative test on day two

If travelling direct from Northern Ireland, you must also complete an online health control form, no more than 48 hours before travelling.

There are separate rules for re-entering Northern Ireland.

Spain, like other popular destinations such as Portugal, France and Greece, are currently non-red list countries. If fully vaccinated, upon return to Northern Ireland, a UK passenger locator form must be completed on arrival or in the 48 hours before arrival.

Before travelling back, you must also book a PCR test to be taken on or before day two following your arrival into Northern Ireland.

There is a requirement to self-isolate until the result of the PCR test is known, and if a positive result is produced, this isolation must continue for 10 days.

If you are not fully vaccinated, you must also complete the UK passenger locator form, take a pre-departure Covid-19 test in the three days before you travel to Northern Ireland, and book PCR tests for days two and eight which will follow your arrival.

When in Northern Ireland, you must self-isolate for 10 days, even if the day eight test returns a negative result.

I am travelling back to Belfast from Italy through Dublin, do I have to take a PCR test after I arrive?

Yes, in the same way a direct flight from Italy to Northern Ireland would require PCR tests, as above, these requirements also apply to travellers who arrive into Northern Ireland via the Republic of Ireland.

In a change to the Republic of Ireland's rules, from Monday, passengers arriving at the country's ports and airports must also provide a negative Covid-19 test, including travellers arriving from within the Common Travel Area (the UK and Ireland).

This can either be a lateral flow test taken up to 48 hours before arrival into the Republic, or a PCR test taken up to 72 hours before.

Children aged 11 and under, plus some other categories, will be exempt from the test.

You can view the latest edition of Coronavirus Catch-up via the BBC News NI YouTube channel

More on this story