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EU plans vaccine passport for post-Covid travel

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Written by: Emma Lunn
17/03/2021
The European Commission has proposed a Digital Green Certificate to facilitate safe, free movement inside the European Union during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The digital or paper document will show if a person has been vaccinated against Covid-19, recently received a negative test result, or recovered from Covid-19.

What is a Digital Green Certificate?

The certificate is basically a vaccine passport – although you don’t necessarily need to have been vaccinated against coronavirus to get one.

As well as a traveller’s vaccination status, the certificate will also show if a holder has recovered from Covid-19 or recently tested negative for the virus.

The Digital Green Certificate will be available free of charge and include a QR code to ensure security and authenticity of the certificate.

Who can get a Digital Green Certificate?

The proposal is focused on EU nationals, and those living and working in the EU. The UK left the EU on 31 January 2021.

But the European Commission also says that those “staying in the EU who hold a Digital Green Certificate” should also be exempt from freedom of movement restrictions.

Travel experts at Which? say that this may mean travellers from the UK can use the certificate to travel to and take holidays in the EU.

How does the Digital Green Certificate work?

The European Commission says it will build a gateway to ensure all certificates can be verified across the EU, and support member states in the technical implementation of certificates.

However, it says member states remain responsible to decide which public health restrictions can be waived for travellers but will have to apply such waivers in the same way to travellers holding a Digital Green Certificate.

Věra Jourová, vice-president for values and transparency, said: “The Digital Green Certificate offers an EU-wide solution to ensure that EU citizens benefit from a harmonised digital tool to support free movement in the EU. This is a good message in support of recovery. Our key objectives are to offer an easy to use, non-discriminatory and secure tool that fully respects data protection. And we continue working towards international convergence with other partners.”

What information will be on the certificate?

The commission says the Digital Green Certificate won’t discriminate between vaccinated and non-vaccinated travellers.

To prevent discrimination against people who are not vaccinated, the commission proposes to create not only a vaccination certificate, but also Covid-19 test certificates, and certificates for people who have recovered from Covid-19.

The certificates will include a limited set of information such as name, date of birth, date of issuance, relevant information about vaccine/test/recovery and a unique identifier of the certificate. This data can be checked only to confirm and verify the authenticity and validity of certificates.

Will Brits be able to get a Digital Green Certificate?

Details of the proposed scheme are still under discussion. But, since Brexit, the UK won’t automatically be included in the scheme.

But given that many European countries’ economies rely on British tourists, it’s possible that the EU and UK will agree to the UK’s participation in the scheme.

The UK government is currently consulting on a its own version of a vaccine passport for domestic use.

Cruise company P&O announced today that it will only accept vaccinated passengers on its UK cruises this summer, while Cyprus and several other countries will only admit vaccinated tourists.

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