The European Union Commission has first brought forward its proposal for the creation of a Digital Green Certificate in mid-March this year, in a bid to make it possible for vaccinated persons to travel without restrictions in a bid to restore travel amid COVID-19.
The proposal for the establishment of the certificate system, which some European countries have already created on their own, among others, intends to offer an easy to use, non-discriminatory and secure tool that fully respects data protection.
What Is the Purpose of EU’s Digital Green Certificate?
The European Commission has created the Digital Green Certificate, which among the public is already known as a vaccine certificate or vaccine passport, in order to facilitate travel for EU citizens and residents throughout the block.
Through the document, the EU intends to encourage the Member States to remove restrictions on free movement for those holding such passports – who will be vaccinated persons and those who have recovered recently from the virus.
“When travelling, every Digital Green Certificate holder will have the same rights as citizens of the visited Member State who have been vaccinated, tested or recovered,” the EU Commission explains.
While the Member States will still be able to continue to oblige arrivals from other EU countries to quarantine or test, they must notify the Commission and all other Member States and provide reasons for such measures.
What Information Will a Vaccine Certificate Include?
The vaccine certificate, which will, in fact, be issued to those who have recovered from the virus, and those who aren’t immunised anyhow, will contain the following information on its holder:
- Name& surname
- date of birth
- issuing Member State
- a unique identifier (QR code)
- For vaccinated travellers: vaccine product and manufacturer, number of doses, date of vaccination
- For tested travellers: type of test, date and time of test, test centre and result
- For travellers who have recovered from the virus: date of the positive test result, an issuer of the certificate, date of issuance, validity date
How Will the Vaccine Certificate Look Like?
Though many may have imagined these certificates will look like regular passports, in fact, they will be issued in digital format. Travellers may present them, when needed, in a smartphone or print them out, according to their preference.
Every certificate should be issued in two languages, in English and the official language(s) of the issuing country. They will contain a unique machine-readable QR code to securely verify the authenticity, integrity and validity of the certificate as well as a digital signature.
How Will It Work Across the EU?
The certificates will be issued by certified bodies in each member says, which can be hospitals, test centres, health authorities, etc. Each of them will contain its own digital signature key, which will be part of the QR code of the Digital Green Certificate.
The main reason why the certificates will contain a QR code is in order to prevent their falsification.
Whenever the certificate holder is required to present it, the QR code will be scanned and the signature verified.
The verification will be made possible through a gateway build by the EU Commission. The gateway will not pass the personal data of the certificate holder.
Which Vaccines Will Be Accepted?
The EU Commission advises the member states to issue certificates regardless of the type of COVID-19 vaccine the EU citizen has taken.
Yet, where the Member States accept proof of vaccination to exempt the traveller from some public health restrictions, including testing and quarantine, they would be required to accept, under the same conditions, vaccination certificates issued under the Digital Green Certificate system.
“This obligation would be limited to vaccines that have received EU-wide marketing authorisation. Member States have the option to accept vaccination certificates issued in relation to other vaccines,” the Commission notes.
Which COVID-19 Tests Will Be Accepted?
In order to make sure that tests presented in the certificates are reliable, the Commission has decided that only the so-called NAAT tests (including RT-PCR tests) and rapid antigen tests. A list of these test has been established on the basis of Council Recommendation 2021/C 24/01.
How Long Will the Certificates Be Valid?
The validity of certificates will depend on scientific evidence and will be determined by the verifiers following their national rules, and will be adjusted according to that,
The Commission has, however, proposed that the certificates issued by the other Member States are accepted following the same rules as the ones applied to nationally issued certificates. The regulation also introduces some basic principles, for example, setting the maximum validity period of the certificate of recovery at 180 days.
What About Those Who Have Already Been Vaccinated?
Those who are vaccinated before the launch of the Digital Green Certificate are also eligible to obtain them.
How Long Will EU Residents Have to Use the Digital Green Certificates?
The Immunity, Test and Vaccine Certificates will continue to be issued until the World Health Organization (WHO) declares the health emergency caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
How Much Will a Digital Green Certificate Cost?
The certificates will be free of charge for all EU citizen and residents. Their costs should be covered by the issuing member state. The latter will be supported by the Commission.
The gateway at the EU level will also be financially covered by the Commission.
Can an EU Citizen Travel to non-EU Countries with a Digital Green Certificate?
The Commission’s proposal for a vaccine certificate is open to global initiatives as the ones initiated by the United Nations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), and it is working to make sure that the certificates are compatible with systems in third countries.
“Third countries should be encouraged to recognise the Digital Green Certificate when lifting restrictions on non-essential travel,” the Commission says.
It further claims that the Digital Green Certificates could serve as an example for other certificates currently being developed in other countries worldwide.
Can Third-Country Nationals Residing in the EU Obtain the Certificate?
The certificates will be issued to every person living in the Member States; therefore, third-country citizens residing in the block are eligible to obtain their certificates, just as EU nationals.
“Separate proposals to cover citizens and non-EU citizens are necessary for legal reasons; there is no difference in treatment of citizens and eligible non-EU citizens for the purpose of the certificates,” the Commission explains.
The certificate could also be issued to residents of the European microstates of Andorra, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican, in particular in cases when they are vaccinated by a Member State.
Is It Possible That the Certificates Can Soon Be Issued to Travellers From Third Countries?
Currently, travel from non-EU countries for non-essential purposes is restricted. A non-EU citizen can, however, request e Digital Green Certificate from the EU member he or she is travelling to. The traveller will have to provide the necessary information, including reliable proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
“The Member State would then have to assess if reliable proof has been provided and decide whether to issue a Digital Green Certificate,” the Commission explains.
Certificates issued by third countries can be accepted only if they are issued under the same conditions as Digital Green Certificates.
Full article on Schengen Visa Info