As of now, citizens of approximately a dozen European countries already have access to the European Union (EU) digital COVID certificate, which facilitates travel between different countries in the region. So what should a traveller know in order to use it while finally travelling in Europe much safer and easier than before?
This June began with the long-awaited lifting of the previously extremely strict restrictions related to travelling between European countries. This has become possible not only due to the declining number of new covid-19 cases in the EU – but also because of simplified and improved control measures and a clearly defined legal framework for the accurate identification of test results, recovery from covid-19 or vaccination – which was done in most states.
As it has been already announced for many months, the final stage of movement restriction lifting in all EU should come when European Union Digital COVID Certificate (EUDCC), previously called the Digital Green Certificate, will fully come into force on the EU level. Such a document is designated to conveniently provide reliable information about every person’s vaccination, test or recovery status in regards to covid-19 disease.
Formulated as a QR code, the person travelling can choose to carry this certificate in either a digital or paper-based form. One of the main aims of this document is to make travel between EU Member States as simple as possible – ideally, similar to those which Europeans used to enjoy before the pandemic – at least in the terms of fast and worry-free international travel across the good old Europe.
EU digital COVID certificate should be fully operational in the EU by July 1st
Although the certificate is already fully operational in almost half of the EU member states – and (if you are eligible to get one) already allows travel between them, it should be enforced in all 27 countries by July. It is set to be formalised by the passing of an EU regulation no later than on the first day of July – and after that a six-week phasing-in period for any member states that need more time will begin. However, the latter circumstance is rather related to a more theoretical possibility, as it is unlikely that any of the states will be so late in implementing the certificate.
And what about travelling to/from/between other countries of European Economic Area, United Kingdom or Switzerland?
It was previously stated on the EU level that it is open to the EU digital COVID certificate being carried out in Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland (all the EEA countries which aren’t part of the EU), as well as Switzerland. Having said that, Norway and Switzerland already have committed to agree on creating national vaccine certificates which would be compatible with the EU. Iceland, on its part, has already permitted entry to tourists from the EU who have undergone a full vaccination course or have recently recovered from the covid-19. That also applies to citizens of Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican who can enter the country without restrictions under the same conditions.
However, the UK is still yet to announce it’s agreement with the EU – which is still in the early stage of development – but probably will be finished in the next few weeks. Although, it is worth mentioning that the country is currently in the process of finishing the precise system for issuing its own vaccine certificates through the UK National Health Service.
For those considering visiting the United Kingdom, it is important to remember that currently the country is operating a so-called ‘red, amber and green traffic-lights country list system’ for travellers arriving from abroad. The list includes both European and non-European countries and the whole system is explained here.
Naturally, the list is subject to change (and is updated no less frequently than every three weeks) – so it is worth checking the updated version of it as frequently as possible before considering visiting the UK – as well as while planning a trip. More information about how the country is mitigating the risks related to spread of the virus as well as the escalations of new covid-19 variants due to international travels can be found by visiting this link.
Which criteria should I meet to be eligible for EU digital COVID certificate?
According to the current framework, a person is recognised as the one vaccinated against coronavirus one week after receiving the second jab of Pfizer vaccine, two weeks after the second dose of Moderna, 15 days after the second dose of AstraZeneca, and two weeks after receiving the single dose of of Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
As it has been already stated on the EU level, unvaccinated people won’t be by any means banned or otherwise restricted from travelling after the certificate will become EU-wide travel document. The European Commission has previously stressed that such a document won’t become a precondition to free movement across the bloc – but, rather, it will facilitate the fundamental right.
“There is no discrimination against individuals who are not vaccinated,” states 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.”
As it is already implemented in national legislation of the most member states, travel restrictions should not apply to people who have recently recovered from covid-19. ‘Recently’ means that no more than 180 days should have elapsed since the diagnosis of covid-19 disease was detected.
However, it is important to note that for receiving the EU digital COVID certificate, the fact of recovering from the covid-19 disease is recognized only if a person has been previously diagnosed with such illness after a positive PCR test result. Therefore, in case the infection has been confirmed by an antigen test, a person must have a separate document confirming the recovery.
If a person does not meet the prescribed vaccination or relapse deadlines, it is necessary to perform a separate test and receive a negative result. For now (and, most probably, later on) NAAT tests, which also include the currently acceptable type of RT-PCR tests – as well as rapid antigen tests will be recognised. However, this won’t yet include any tests which a traveller could perform himself.
How will my personal data be protected while using EU digital COVID certificate for travelling?
This certificate is meant to and will contain only the necessary basic information: name, date of birth, relevant information on the vaccine, test performed or the fact about recovery from the covid-19 illness – as well as an unique identifier. A foreign country you visit nor any legal entity (besides your own healthcare provider – or other organisation you’ll personally consent to process such data to) cannot store this information.
The certificate is designated in such a way that only the validity and authenticity of the certificate shall be certified for verification purposes. All health data shall remain at the disposal of the Member State that issued the digital certificate.
The unique QR code contains a digital signature which is delivered by an issuing body, for example, a health authority, state clinic, hospital or test centre. Each such entity already has – or will have at the moment of the system adoption – an unique digital signature key and all related data will be stored in a secure database in each country.
“The European Commission will build a gateway,” is stated in a fact sheet released by the EC. “Through this gateway, all certificate signatures can be verified across the EU. The personal data of the certificate holder does not pass through the gateway, as this is not necessary to verify the digital signature.” The whole fact sheet with all the necessary information regarding EU digital COVID certificate can be downloaded from the official website of the European Commission using this link.