As the overall COVID-19 situation continues to improve in Europe, the European Union (EU)’s lawmakers cleared a new governing regulation concerning the vaccine certificate that will allow easy freedom of movement between European countries.
The EU's parliament approved the Covid vaccine certificate by large majority on Wednesday and will allow people to move freely in the 27 countries without undergoing quarantine or frequent Covid-19 testing.
“Today Parliament has set the pace to restore free movement and a fully functional Schengen while we continue to fight this pandemic. The EU Digital COVID Certificate will function from 1st July, and will ensure safe and coordinated travel this summer. EU states are encouraged to refrain from imposing further restrictions, unless strictly necessary and proportionate, and it is reassuring that some are already issuing the certificate,” Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar, rapporteur and chair of the European Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee, said.
Here’s all you want to know about the EU’s digital vaccination certificate:
What is the EU digital COVID certificate?
As things stand, to move around between two EU countries, a person has to go through different rules and standards of a particular country, making travelling all confusing in Europe. However, with the approval of a Covid certificate, people can resume safe travel in the summer.
The certificate will contain three things – holder’s vaccine status, a record of previous infections or tested within 72 hours.
The certificate will be issued free of charge by national health authorities in EU countries. It will be valid in all EU member states along with Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
It will either be in digital or paper format. The digital version could be stored on the phone. However, there is an option to obtain a paper version as well. Both will behave a QR code containing essential information such as name, date of birth, date of issuance, relevant information about vaccine/ test/recovery and a unique identifier with the digital signature to maintain its authenticity. The information will be not stored or retained when a certificate is verified in another member state. It will be both in the national language of the country issuing it and English. Member states have agreed on a common design.
When will it start?
The scheme, which has been in the pipeline since March, will officially roll out from July 1 and will be in place for 12 months. However, those member states that have already passed technical tests, can start using the system voluntarily.
The gateway for the certificate has already been tested in 22 countries. Already, several member states including Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece and Poland have begun using the system.
Who is eligible?
All EU citizens including legal residents are eligible to get a Covid certificate. Members countries must accept vaccination certificates issued in other member states for vaccines authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). However, it is up to individual member states to accept certificates for vaccines authorized following national authorisation procedures or for vaccines listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for emergency use. Currently, the EU has approved AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.
The certificate will not be a precondition for free movement and will not be considered a travel document. The certificate will be issued to people who are not fully vaccinated as the certificate will log whether you've had one or two doses. It is up to individual member states to decide whether the certificate is acceptable with just one.
People who have not got the first dose of vaccination can also apply for the certificate as those testing negative for the coronavirus will also be eligible for a digital certificate. In such cases, the certificate will store recent negative test results as well as recovery from Covid-19.
Children are also eligible for the Covid certificate if they have received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, test negative, or recover from Covid.
The certificate system will bring the much-need relief to the tourism industry in Europe, which has been hit hard since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic last year and paves the way for safe travel around the bloc.