The European Union has moved another step closer to reviving free movement across borders after reaching a provisional consensus on an EU COVID travel pass. If you’re planning a trip to or within Europe this summer, here’s what you need to know about using your certificate to get there.
What is the EU Digital COVID-19 Certificate?
The EU Digital COVID Certificate (EUDCC), previously called the Digital Green Certificate, lifts travel restrictions across all 27 member states. It is also available for specific non-EU countries.
The certificate consists of information about an individual’s
- Vaccination against COVID-19
- A negative test result or
- Recovery status regarding COVID-19
Formulated as a QR code, the person travelling can choose to carry either a digital or paper-based certificate.
When and how can I get one?
The regulation came into force on July 1st and has a six-week phasing-in period for any member states requiring more time.
National authorities oversee issuing the certificate. It could, for example, be issued by test centres, health authorities or directly via an eHealth portal. Information on how to get the certificate should be provided by the national health authorities.
The digital version can be stored on a mobile device. Citizens can also request a paper version. Both will have a QR code that contains essential information and a digital signature to make sure the certificate is authentic.
Member States have agreed on a standard design that can be used for both the electronic and paper version to facilitate the recognition.
Is it free?
What countries are using it?
Some countries like Denmark, Spain and Greece are already issuing the certificate, and most EU countries are ready to comply except Ireland. Ireland is expected to introduce the certificate on July 19th after suffering delays due to a recent and unrelated cyber-attack on its health service. The certificate is also available to non-EU members of the European Schengen Area, including Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
Which vaccines are approved?
The EUDCC recognises all COVID-19 vaccines authorised by the European Medicines Agency. These include the jabs developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
Member states are also free to decide whether to accept other vaccines, such as those listed by the World Health Organization (WHO), for emergency use. As of July 1st, seven EU countries have accepted India’s Covishield vaccine as eligible for travel. These countries include Austria, Germany, Estonia, Slovenia, Greece, Ireland and Spain. Iceland and Switzerland have also approved the jab, according to the BBC.
Do you need the certificate to travel?
No. The EU has stressed that the new certificate is a pre-condition to free movement across the region. It is instead created to facilitate that fundamental right.
“There is no discrimination against individuals who are not vaccinated,” according to a fact sheet released by the Commission. “Persons who are not vaccinated must be able to continue to exercise their free movement rights, where necessary subject to limitations such as testing or quarantine/self-isolation.”
What tests are accepted instead?
Persons with a negative test in the EU Digital COVID Certificate format are exempted from quarantine requirements, except when they come from areas heavily affected by the virus. The Member States agreed on a standard validity period for tests: 72 hours for PCR tests and, where accepted by a Member State, 48 hours for rapid antigen tests.
Can I use the certificate to travel outside the EU?
The EU has already said it is open to the EUDCC being implemented in EEA countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway) and Switzerland. Both Norway and Switzerland have pledged to create their own vaccine certificates compatible with the EU, while Iceland has permitted entry to vaccinated EU tourists for several months already.
Meanwhile, the UK is still set to carve out an agreement with the region and is currently rolling out its own vaccine certificates through its National Health Service. The UK also operates a traffic light system (red, amber and green) for international arrivals.
How long is the certificate valid?
Validity will depend on how relevant the certificates are at any given time, scientific evidence, and national rules across each member state.