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16th Jan 2022

New EU Covid certficate set for July holiday travel

  • People are gearing up for holidays in Europe (Photo: Visit Greece)

People in the EU should be able to travel more freely as of the first of July, following agreement on a new Covid certificate.

The decision on the EU-wide certificate, reached among the EU institutions on Thursday (20 May), aims to prove the Covid status of people travelling, and lift travel restrictions.

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"As of the first of July, three types of certificates will be available," EU justice commissioner Didier Reynders told reporters.

The certificate types comprise vaccination, negative test, and recovery. They will be valid in all EU countries.

"All of them will be free of charge for all EU citizens and it will be possible to have them in a digital format," he said.

The certificates can also be printed.

National authorities will be able to verify a certificate's validity by uploading public signature keys to a special EU gateway.

However, only 17 EU states, plus Iceland, have so far successfully tested the EU gateway.

The 17 EU states are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Spain and Sweden.

Others have scheduled further tests in the coming days, including Latvia, Ireland, Malta, Poland, Portugal and Romania.

The vaccine certificate will indicate the type of vaccine, when it was given, and the dosage.

A person with only one dose can still travel. But it will be up to the individual member states to decide whether or not to accept it.

The European Commission has also recommended member states only accept vaccines authorised by the European Medicines Agency.

If a person has been given something else, then it will be up to the individual member state whether to accept it or not.

It is not immediately clear for how long the vaccine certificate will be valid for.

"We don't yet know whether there will be a third vaccination, we are not there yet," said Reynders.

The commission is also pushing rapid antigen tests for the negative test certificate.

At under €5, the tests are relatively cheap. Reynders said an additional €100m has been set aside to purchase more tests.

This comes on top of the some 20 million rapid antigen tests already purchased, and a €2.6bn joint-procurement for another 550 million.

"At the beginning of July, we will have more vaccinated people and less tests to organise," noted Reynders.

Member states will still be able to impose restrictions on movement, if required. But those restrictions must be "necessary, proportionate and not discriminate." One possible scenario would be the sudden emergence of a variant and a subsequent deterioration of public health.

EU states will first have to inform each other, the EU commission, and the public before imposing the restrictions.

Discussions on mutual recognition of certificates are also under way with other countries, like the United States, United Kingdom and Switzerland.

"The objective is to accept vaccinated persons coming from outside the EU, those who have been vaccinated," said Reynders.

Reynders said they are currently working on a case-by-case basis.

A list of non-EU countries, where EU citizens can travel to, is also still being worked out.

"I hope that by the first of July we will have made more progress with third countries," he said.

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