The European Union has taken one more step towards relaunching free movement after reaching tentative consensus on an EU COVID travel pass.

What is the new certificate?

The EU COVID Digital Certificate (EUDCC), previously known as the Digital Green Certificate, will lift travel restrictions in all 27 member states – and will also be available for some non-EU countries.

This will be information about an individual’s vaccination, testing and / or recovery status with respect to COVID-19. Formulated as a QR code, the traveler can choose to carry a digital or paper certificate.

Can my country refuse to comply?

Short answer – no. The certificate should be formalized through the adoption of an EU regulation, which is a binding legislative act. This means that it must be applied in its entirety across the block.

Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia and Poland have already started issuing them.

When can I get one?

Hopefully by June. The regulation will enter into force on July 1 and will have a phased implementation period of six weeks for all Member States that need more time.

However, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Thursday that the system would be ready at EU level “within the next few days”, meaning member states could soon start their national deployments.

Do i have to pay?

No. EUDCC will be free.

What vaccines are recognized?

All COVID-19 vaccines authorized by the European Medicines Agency will be recognized by the EUDCC.

These include the jabs developed by Pfizer / BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford / AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.

Member States will also be free to decide for themselves whether to accept other vaccines.

What if I am not vaccinated? Am I banned from traveling?

Not at all. The EU stressed that the new certificate will not become a prerequisite for free movement across the bloc; on the contrary, it will facilitate the fundamental right.

“There is no discrimination against individuals who are not vaccinated”, according to a fact sheet published by the Commission. “People who are not vaccinated should be able to continue to exercise their free movement rights, where applicable subject to limitations such as testing or quarantine / self-isolation.”

What tests will be accepted?

So-called NAAT tests (including RT-PCR tests) and rapid antigenic tests will be recognized. At this time, this will not include self-tests.

Can I use my certificate to travel to the EEA, UK or Switzerland?

The EU has already declared itself open to the implementation of the EUDCC in the EEA countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway), as well as in Switzerland.

Norway and Switzerland have pledged to create their own vaccination certificates to be compatible with the EU, while Iceland has allowed entry to vaccinated tourists from the EU for several months already.

Meanwhile, the UK is still on the cusp of a deal with the bloc – 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.

Travelers from Red List countries can only enter if they are UK or Irish nationals, or have UK resident status. Amber countries require that a COVID test be performed before travel, 10 days of quarantine on arrival and two more COVID tests to be performed on the second and eighth days after arrival.

Green List countries require a COVID test before and after arriving in the UK. However, Portugal is the only EU country currently on this list.

What about the United States?

Much of the world’s population, including Europe, has not been allowed to travel to the United States since the early days of the pandemic – and that doesn’t look set to change anytime soon.

According to the US Travel Association, authorities will look into the EU’s plan to revive international travel to “hopefully get the United States to heed the many calls for a plan and a timetable for reopening our borders safely “.

Will the pass be secure?

The QR code will include a digital signature that will come from an issuing body, which could be a hospital, testing center or health authority. Each organization will have a unique digital signing key and will be stored in a secure database in each country.

“The European Commission will build a gateway,” the fact sheet says. “With 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.

How long is the certificate valid for?

The validity will depend on the relevance of the certificates at any given time, as well as scientific evidence and national rules in each Member State.

Will this certificate be with me forever?

This is not the plan. The EU maintains that the certificates are strictly linked to the pandemic. Therefore, once the World Health Organization (WHO) declares the end of the public health emergency, the certificate system will also be suspended.

It also means that it could be reactivated in the event that the WHO declares another public health emergency.

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