Vaccine

The EU has released its plan for the introduction of a “Digital Green Certificate” travel pass to help facilitate travel in Europe.

The plan, released on Wednesday, is the tool by which the EU hopes to let vaccinated people travel again, by allowing them to skip pandemic-related travel restrictions, such as testing and self-isolation.

It identifies that in the absence of standardised and secure formats for documents, such as medical certificates, test results, or declarations, travellers have experienced problems in the acceptance of said documents.

The Digital Green Certificate will contain three key elements:

  • Vaccination certificates, which will state the brand of the vaccine used, the place of inoculation and the number of doses administered.
  • Test certificates (either from swab tests or a rapid antigen test, but not self-administered tests).
  • Medical certificates for people who have had, and recovered from COVID in the last 180 days.

Importantly, however, the plan emphasises that the purpose of the “Green Certificate” is to facilitate the exercise of free movement rather than act as a pre-condition for free movement.

It explains that persons who are not vaccinated, including for example due to medical reasons, or because they do not wish to do so, “must be able to continue to exercise their fundamental right of free movement, where necessary subject to limitations such as mandatory testing and quarantine/self-isolation”.

Furthermore, it aims to ensure a high level of data protection, and says that only the relevant national authorities in the destination country and the transportation services would be able to use the personal data to verify a person’s status. 

The digital certificate will be free of charge and made available to all EU citizens and residents, whatever their nationality. 

Under the plan, EU nations will be obliged to treat other countries’ vaccine certificates “under the same conditions”, though this obligation only extends to EU-approves COVID vaccine.

Therefore, it excludes Russian and Chinese offerings, which as of yet, have not been approved for use in the EU. However, it says these can be accepted at the discretion of individual countries. 

Proposals for the so-called “Green Pass” have already been welcomed in Malta. At the start of March, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Health, Chris Fearne described the proposed scheme as an “added tool to facilitate travel and empower European citizens”. 

Meanwhile, the World Travel and Tourism Council warned against the implementation of vaccines as a requirement to travel, citing similar reasons to those now compensated for in the plan, that it would “discriminate against less advanced countries and younger travellers, or those who simply can’t or choose not to be vaccinated”. 

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