A new app allowing people who live in Northern Ireland to access and download their Covid passport has been launched.

The Department of Health has launched CovidCertNI to make it easier for people to access their Covid pass and eliminating the need to request a paper copy which can take up to several days.

The new app, designed by software company Civica with Digital Health and Care Northern Ireland and the Digital Transformation Service, is now available for download from the Apple Store and Google Play.

The Northern Ireland Department of Health confirmed the app has been developed to meet EU and World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, including a QR code to enable safer user verification.

It also includes facial recognition to ensure that the photo uploaded to the system matches that of the user. The app can be used to prove vaccination status whenever needed, including on public transport and when attending sporting or other social events.

Health Minister Robin Swann said: “Covid-19 has created many challenges since it first arrived on our shores last February, and our new digital tools have helped us to respond.

“The CovidCertNI App is the third new smartphone app produced by my department since last year.  It will enable those travelling internationally to access their vaccination records and show a digital certificate.

“There have been monumental efforts to get this digital platform to this stage.”

Covid passports have been available in paper form in Northern Ireland since early July.

But the government warned there may be delays or “capacity problems” accessing the digital Covid passport service due to its popularity.

Currently users are asked to only download and use the app if they are travelling up to the end of July.

Government guidance states those travelling abroad will still need to adhere to the requirements of the country they are visiting, meaning a Covid passport is not a guarantee on skipping quarantine.

Dr Eddie O’Neil, director of the Covid Certification Service at the Northern Ireland Department of Health said: “The new service is essential in supporting citizens in NI to meet the emerging international standards for certification, to enable bio-secure travel.

“A simplified, user-friendly process will make it easier and quicker for people to access their certificate on their personal computer or via their smartphone, providing both convenience and peace of mind to individuals seeking to travel.”

Mark Owens, managing director of Civica for NI, added: “The past year has given us all a newfound appreciation for the transformative power of data-driven, smart digital technologies. Apps and other digital solutions played a decisive role in ensuring we could live, work and travel as safely as possible, despite the rampant global pandemic.

“CovidCertNI will empower ordinary citizens to access and download their vaccination certificate at the click of a button, ensuring they can continue living their lives whilst ensuring the safety of the wider community.”

Covid passports in England and Wales

Online Covid passports have been available in Wales from June and England from May.

In England the passes are available through the NHS App, which already allowed users to access a range of NHS services on their smartphone or tablet, including vaccination records.

Users can check their vaccination status through the app if permitted by their GP. This applies to all vaccines.

To use the app you must be registered with a GP in England. The government is recommending people register with the app before booking international travel and at least two weeks before the departure date.

Accessing the Welsh Covid passports requires an NHS login to allow access to the NHS Covid Pass website. People who live in Wales but are registered with a GP in England may have to download the NHS App to access their Covid-19 passport.

Currently, Covid-19 passports can only be used once a person has had a full course of vaccinations – that means both jabs.

You can find out more about Covid passports and how they work in our explainer here.