Brussels unveils its Covid 'health passport' that it hopes will revitalise travel in the EU

A passenger at the Adolfo Suárez-Barajas airport. File photograph.
A passenger at the Adolfo Suárez-Barajas airport. File photograph. / SUSANA VERA
  • The free Digital Green Certificate will show proof of being vaccinated, having tested negative or recovered from the coronavirus

The European Commission has presented its Digital Green Certificate, a kind of 'health passport', this Wednesday (17 March) that will allow EU citizens to circumvent travel restrictions within the block - and that it hopes will be key to the reactivation of tourism.

Free, whether in printed form or electronically, it will allow travel based on three specific parameters: having been vaccinated against coronavirus with one of the formulas authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA); having a negative test; or having overcome the disease and, consequently, having antibodies.

“We propose a common approach that will guide us on the path to our goal of reopening the EU to a safe, sustainable and predictable environment. The situation with the virus in Europe remains very challenging and confidence in the decisions made is essential. Only through a joint approach can we safely return to full free movement on the basis of transparent measures and full mutual trust,” stressed the Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides.

The certificate is supported by a QR code with an electronic signature that will protect it from possible counterfeiting attempts and that would be shown at the airport or when crossing the borders of the destination country.

All information will be stored "in a secure database" in each of the countries. The task of the European Commission will be the development of a 'gateway' that allows the access and verification of certificates and signatures in each of the states, in addition to helping in the development of software that will allow the verification of QR codes.

Brussels has emphasised that the owner's most sensitive personal data would not pass through that common platform since it would not be necessary “to verify the digital signature”.

When travelling, all European or third country citizens legally resident in the EU would be exempted from restrictions on free movement.

"Vaccinated and not vaccinated", should benefit from this pass to travel within the EU. In fact, the Brussels Executive stresses that "to prevent discrimination against the unvaccinated, the Commission proposes to create not only a vaccination certificate, but also Covid-19 test certificates for people who have recovered from the disease."

Once the project has been presented and for the certificates to be activated before the summer, "rapid adoption" is required by the European Parliament. At the same time, Member States must also implement "the framework and agreed technical standards" to ensure the timely implementation of the certificates. Brussels said the objective is to have the technical work and the political process completed "in the next few months".