- The European Council has introduced the Digital COVID Certificate to restore freedom of movement in Europe.
- The paper or digital pass was officially implemented on July 1, 2021. It proves a person is recovered from coronavirus, has tested negative for COVID-19, or has received a vaccine.
- All EU member states plus Liechtenstein, Iceland, and Norway now issue and accept the COVID-19 travel certificate.
Now active is the EU Digital COVID Certificate (EU DCC). Residents of all EU nations can utilise the system to travel freely to any of the 27 member states as well as a number of other nations that recognise the certificate.
When entering countries in the European Union (EU) or other countries that have joined the system, travellers possessing the EU DCC can bypass limitations on their freedom of movement, such as quarantine.
The Digital COVID Certificate, sometimes referred to as the digital green certificate or green pass, enables EU people to travel securely inside the EU during the COVID-19 epidemic.
The initial implementation date for the EU DCC was June 30, 2022. But lately, the European Commission (EC) and the Parliament suggested extending it by another year, to June 30, 2023.
WHAT IS THE DIGITAL COVID CERTIFICATE?
The certificate serves as documentation for a person’s coronavirus vaccination, negative test results, or COVID-19 recovery.
This European Coronavirus Certificate has assisted in reviving regional tourism because it is:
- Accessible and secure
- Capable of storing and managing only essential information and secure personal data.
Three types of certifications are covered under the EU Digital COVID Certificate:
- COVID-19 tests, including NAAT (RT-PCR tests) and rapid antigen tests
- Health certificates for persons who have recovered from COVID-19.
Due to the certificate’s acceptance in every EU member state, free movement has been restored. Travel restrictions related to the coronavirus should not apply to holders of an EU Digital COVID Certificate.
HOW DOES THE EU COVID CERTIFICATE WORK?
Every certificate has a distinctive QR code. The traveler’s signature and QR code will be confirmed when the certificate is examined.
Every issuing entity, such as a hospital, has a digital signature key that is kept in a safe database in that nation.
A gateway that will check all certificate signatures across the EU was developed by the European Commission. However, no personal information is sent to the gateway.
EU COVID CERTIFICATE GATEWAY
As of June 1, 2021, the technological mechanism known as the EU Gateway, which enables regulation of the EU COVID certificate, is operational.
The gateway enables EU members to securely check certificates while upholding everyone’s right to privacy. The European Union is demonstrating its leadership in the digital era with this Certificate, according to Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission.
By June 17, the majority of EU countries had tested the system effectively. Members that passed the required technical tests could begin issuing certificates right away. However, the official implementation was July 1, 2021.
WHO CAN ACCESS THE EU DIGITAL COVID CERTIFICATE?
The following countries are now connected to the gateway and issuing and verifying EU COVID certificates:
EU MEMBER STATES: COVID CERTIFICATE
EFTA MEMBER STATES: COVID CERTIFICATE
EU DIGITAL COVID CERTIFICATE FOR NON-EU CITIZENS
The EU DCC system now includes 29 nations and territories that are not members of the EU or EFTA.
This indicates that they all consent to admission through the EU DCC.
These nations’ COVID certificates are recognised for entrance into the EU under the same guidelines as the EU DCC.
- Cape Verde
- El Salvador
- Faroe Islands
- New Zealand
- North Macedonia
- San Marino
- The United Arab Emirates
- The United Kingdom (including the Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man)
- The Vatican
I AM A THIRD-COUNTRY NATIONAL, CAN I GET A COVID PASS FOR THE EU?
If they acquired their immunisation in a member state, citizens of third countries living in the EU can use the EU DCC just like any other resident.
If they can show evidence that they had a vaccine authorised in the EU, those who received their vaccination in a third country may be allowed to apply for an EU DCC. However, providing this service is not required of EU member states.
33 non-EU nations have also enrolled in the EU DCC system. The four EFTA nations, four microstates in Europe with close ties to the EU, and 25 more nations are among them.
For entrance into an EU country, vaccination certificates produced by these nations are recognised under the same conditions as the EU Digital COVID Certificate.
In exchange, many nations recognise the EU DCC as evidence that travellers may travel safely.
CAN I GET A DIGITAL GREEN CERTIFICATE FOR US CITIZENS?
The United States has not joined the EU Digital COVID Certificate system. US citizens can only get an EU digital green certificate if they are vaccinated in the European Union.
Americans may still be able to visit Europe if they comply with the current entry requirements. These are subject to change and may include full vaccination and/or a negative test result.
It is important to check the EU’s COVID-19 travel restrictions before travelling.
Once the new visa waiver system is launched, Americans will also need to meet the ETIAS requirements for US citizens.
CAN I GET AN EU COVID CERTIFICATE FOR UK CITIZENS?
Like any other resident, British nationals who reside in the EU are eligible to get an EU COVID certificate.
British citizens who reside in the UK may enter the EU using an NHS COVID Pass, which attests to their completion of a full course of an EU-approved vaccinations.
One of the nations that has enrolled in the EU DCC system is the UK. This indicates that immunisation records produced in the following countries—England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man—are recognised as equivalent to EU DCCs.
Travelers from the UK might need to take a test and be vaccinated in several EU countries.
DIGITAL COVID CERTIFICATE TO MAKE TRAVELLING SAFE
The EU DCC is intended to make travelling around Europe safer by lowering the likelihood of COVID-19 spreading. It includes details on the holder’s immunizations, test outcomes, and any prior viral recoveries. This reveals if the individual is likely to have COVID-19 on them at the time of travel.
Travelers are thought to be safe as long as they are completely immunised, have recently recovered from coronavirus, or have tested negative in the days before the trip.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 epidemic, travel to and within the EU was first restricted to only absolutely necessary travel. The “green pass,” originally known as the EU Digital COVID Certificate, was developed with the intention of reestablishing mobility in Europe.
Didier Reynders, the EU’s commissioner for justice, states that the COVID Certificate:
- Allows citizens to travel safely
- Facilitates transport so that it can operate normally
- Allows businesses to benefit from their spending.
In a statement released on June 14, 2021, Presidents David Sassoli and Ursula von der Leyen and Prime Minister António Costa declared that “the EU Digital COVID Certificate is a symbol of what Europe stands for.”
WHICH COVID VACCINATIONS ARE ACCEPTED FOR THE EU COVID CERTIFICATE?
The European Council reaffirmed that nations within the EU must recognise immunisation records issued by other members. Currently, the vaccines approved for use in the EU by the European Medicines Agency are those that are valid in Europe and utilised for the digital certificate (EMA).
The individual member states can then choose whether to accept vaccination records that have been approved by other members states in accordance with their own national authorization processes or shots that are on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) list of emergency vaccinations.
For instance, the Chinese vaccination Sinovac-CoronaVac was authorised by the WHO on June 1 for use in an emergency situation, making it safe for use elsewhere. Sinovac Biotech is the company that created the vaccine.
Following the final dosage, vaccines listed on the EU DCC are approved for 270 days (9 months).
WHAT LANGUAGE IS THE EU COVID CERTIFICATE ISSUED IN?
The official language(s) of the EU member state that issued the COVID certificate as well as English are used in its issuance.
The application procedure can be completed in the applicant’s mother tongue. Health authorities in the nation of origin of the EU citizen provide certificates.
IS THE DIGITAL COVID CERTIFICATE FREE OF CHARGE?
The EU Digital COVID Certificate is available without charge to all citizens and residents of the EU. Both a print copy and a digital version are available. A QR code is on the pass to prevent fraud.
EU COVID CERTIFICATE AND DATA PROTECTION
Didier Reynders made the following statement on data protection: “Personal data included in the papers cannot be maintained by destination states.” Didier Reynders claimed that there would not be a central database at an EU level for people’ COVID Certificates.
According to the EU, data shall be safeguarded in the following ways:
- No data will link it to the passport or ID card number
- Open-source technology will be prioritised
- It will be protected from cybersecurity risks
- Only essential personal data will be used
Moreover, the pass is verified to prevent fraud and forgery, as is the authenticity of the electronic seals included in the document.
EU COVID PASS TIMELINE
The European Parliament decided to expedite the Digital COVID Certificate through an urgent procedure on March 25, 2021. 16 MEPs did not participate in the vote, which was 468 to 203.
The official unveiling of the European “green pass” took place on April 14. All 27 nations “underlined their commitment to having the framework ready by the summer of 2021,” according to a statement made by national envoys.
The certificate will thereafter become active on July 1 according to an agreement struck between the Parliament and the Council on May 20. On June 14, EU officials released an official statement stating, “The EU Digital COVID Certificate Regulation was agreed with by our institutions in the record time of 62 days.”
The EU Gateway went operational on June 1, 2021, allowing nations to start issuing certifications voluntarily.
The EU Digital COVID Certificate replaced the COVID pass as the accepted format for travel within Europe on July 1, 2021.
Since then, the EU DCC has been a useful instrument for limiting COVID-19, containing the spread, and assisting in epidemic prevention. It is still necessary for travel between several EU nations to remain unrestricted.
DIGITAL COVID CERTIFICATE TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
A set of recommendations were released by the eHealth network to guarantee the acceptance and compatibility of certificates throughout the European Union.
The following areas are covered by technical specifications:
- Data structure and encoding mechanisms including a QR code for paper and digital versions that can be read in all EU countries.
- EU Gateway — this platform allows the authenticity of certificates to be verified across the EU. Personal information will not go through the gateway, only data required for verification.
- Reference implementations for issuing software, an app to verify certificates, and wallet apps for storage of certificates. Technological infrastructure has been implemented at an EU level and deployed by the individual Member States.
HOW THE EU VACCINE PASSPORT IS HELPING EUROPE’S TRAVEL INDUSTRY
The pandemic has had a damaging impact on EU business travel and tourism. The COVID pass has been a big help in boosting travel.
Compared to other regions of the globe, the EU’s tourist industry rebounded more quickly in the third quarter of 2021. The widespread usage of the EU DCC and other recognised “vaccine passports” has been credited with this result.
In 2021, tourism in Europe was responsible for 10% of the EU’s GDP and 27 million employment.