With the Covid-19 world pandemic lacking signs of loosening its grip any soon, in March 2021, the European Commission (EC) came up with the idea of introducing its first-ever Digital Green Certificate that will affect multiple nations.
The new document’s role will be to certify that its holder does not represent a threat to the national health systems by presenting proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test, or that he/she has successfully recovered from an earlier infection.
Year and a half of the new virus’ appearance and three contagious waves after, Europe is desperately trying to save the next tourist season along with the travel and recreational sectors.
This is why, in March 2021, the European Commission offered the creation of a new type of passport – the Digital Green Certificate.
The new Digital Green Certificate
According to the proposal, this document will ease the right of free movement of the EU citizens. As to the tourists and the legally residing foreigners in Europe, being in a possession of the Green Certificate will mean no quarantine period, nor testing upon arrival on EU soil.
The new Document will certify that a person:
a) Has been vaccinated.
In this case, the document will contain the type of the vaccine, its corporate name, and the name of the manufacturer, the number of doses, and the date of the vaccination.
NB! The Certificate will only be valid if it contains the names of a vaccine approved by the European Union or by the member state to be visited.
b) Has tested negative for Covid-19.
In this case, the certificate will contain the type of test, the date of the testing, the negative result, and the name of the center/laboratory.
c) Has been recovering from Covid-19.
Here, the document will have the date of the positive Covid-19 test, the name of the center/laboratory that has tested the antibodies, the date of the antibodies testing, and the validity of the test.
Here the maximum period for using the Green Certificate will be of 180 days.
Although the Certificate and the fact that it will act as sort of passport, allowing one to move freely and skip the local restrictions, there will be no additional border control.
Who can take benefit from the Certificate?
Citizens of the EU, legally residing foreigners, and tourists will all be eligible for the new Digital Green Certificate. The EC expects as many as possible to benefit from the new document during the 2021 summer season when the vaccination proof will act as a travel restriction waiver.
What data will the Green Certificate contain?
The European Commission claims it will ask only the minimum personal data. The Certificate will contain:
- the names,
- the date of birth,
- the state-issuer of the Digital Green Certificate.
- It will also contain a unique QR code with health details on its holder.
ETIAS and the Digital Green Certificate
Looks like the new Green Certificate will become available before the long-awaited European Digital Travel Permit – ETIAS. Despite this, these are two completely different documents. ETIAS is EU’s and Schengen Zone’s visa waiver program.
It will ensure the free movement of people who are now allowed to visit the Schengen states visa-free.
The Digital Green Certificate will only serve as a proof for vaccination, or a Covid-19 negative test Certificate, or a Covid-19 recovery Certificate as long as the pandemic lasts.
How are different countries feeling about the new document?
A perfect idea at first glance, not all the EU states though feel fine with or ready to accept the Green Certificate.
The initial purpose of this document being to help the right of free movement among EU’s citizens, look for some discriminative.
The vaccination not being mandatory and the fact that not everyone who desires to get their jab is fit to do so, makes the new Document restrictive for a significant part of Europe’s population.
Green Passes already imposed locally
At the same time, many countries have already set local “Coronapas” like Denmark, which is expected to waive all restrictions as of May 21 for those who present proof of vaccination, passed infection, or a negative Covid-19 test.
Similar vaccination passports are planned by Sweden and the UK.
In the end of April 2021, Estonia too will start to issue QR codes as a vaccination proof. The country is determined to do it before the launch of the EU’s Green Certificate so its citizens can resume their normal lives even in case the EU’s Certificate meets some obstacles.
It will also help Estonians join the EU’s certificate program as soon as it gets launched.
Israel’s green passport has gone further in its role to ease the restrictions. The most heavily vaccinated country has signed several deals with Greece and Cyprus for this summer period.
It allows all vaccinated people or those having been recovered from earlier infection to visit the hotels, theaters, cinemas, and gyms. It also allows green passport holders to travel abroad.
The flaw in the plan
Despite the urge of reopening societies and restarting businesses, many feel skeptical about the EU’s Certification plan, including EU representatives.
In order to work spotlessly, the system must generate QR codes with access to citizens’ health dossiers.
This will be possible by accessing to countries’ official vaccination records so the holder of the certificate can be linked to its data.
All this will have to be achieved using a common standard set by the World Health Organization or the European Union.
Here comes the problem with the protection of such data. This sensible information will affect an enormous database of citizens and their health status. It will be stored globally but does the WHO or the EU have the resources to do it securely for such a short period?
Ease of the anti-Covid 19 Restrictions
Meanwhile, with summer approaching and the ongoing vaccination campaign, the different European countries start lifting some of the restrictions from the last months but also imposing new rules:
Germany – the country imposes way more often restrictions than ways of easing them. The last ones are from March 24, 2024 and include a curfew from 10 pm to 5 am, practicing sport alone by midday, booking of an appointment to visit any shop, shops will serve only clients with a negative PCR test, and school closure, among others.
Greece – unlike Germany, Greece is ready to relax part of the restrictions by lifting the seven-day quarantine for all travellers from the EU, the UK, Israel, the UAE, and the USA.
They will have to present though proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test made at least 72 hours before arrival.
Hungary – like Greece, Hungary is lifting some restrictions. Shops will be welcoming a limited number of clients – one client per square meter, hairdressers’ studios, and other services are reopening, a curfew will now start at 11pm – 2 hours later than the initially 9 pm.
Italy – with more than a half of Italy’s regions now moving into the yellow zone meaning the virus is less contagious there, Italy will reopen the cinemas, the theatres, and shops.
The bars, cafés, and restaurants will operate by only serving the outside tables. Moreover, people will be moving freely among the 14 regions without proof of vaccination or a test of any kind.
Portugal – the country is in its third phase of easing the measures right now. Schools and universities are reopening, shopping malls, department stores, and restaurants will serve clients indoors. Cinemas and theaters are welcoming the public indoors too.
Spain – although Spain is currently fighting what seems to be the fourth Covid-19 wave, its Tourism Minister is urging the people to start planning their summer vacations.
At the same time, however, the country is keeping its restrictions most of which imposed regionally. In Valencia, for example, the bars must close at 6 pm while in Madrid they stay open until 11 pm.
The UK – UK, one of the most vaccinated countries against Covid-19 is now moving down to level three from level four which means that travel between England, Wales, and Scotland is resuming.
Travel in Scotland is allowed again but only during the day. Meanwhile, people can only gather in groups of up to six persons. Sports facilities are reopening but for individual use only. Indoor bars, restaurants, and cafeterias are also resuming service but only until 8 pm.
Light in the Tunnel?
This may look like a paradox according to the opposers of the European Commission’s idea to implement the Digital Green Certificate, among which ministers and EU diplomats – a dangerous precedent that is, according to them, immoral, discriminative, and close to repressive.
Because, in a world where up to now merely being a citizen of the European Union grants the right of free movement and where vaccination is not yet mandatory, a new certificate and a new vaccine are planned to ensure the very same basic civil right.
A paradox indeed. However, during this year and a half of living in the pandemic, the national governments, in the effort to save their health systems and, at the same time, to limit as much as possible the impact on the most suffered businesses, kept introducing various restrictions followed by leaving them to finally reintroduce the same or similar limitations again.
EU members’ national approach to fighting the pandemic made travelling around the continent overly complicated. Whether it is a mandatory quarantine, a PCR test or a rapid antigen test, a curfew or travel restrictions within one state’s regions, each country has set its own rules.
Not having been able to impose unified measures against the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the European Commission is now offering a common solution to the local restrictions.
The Digital Green Certificate’s holders will have the opportunity to travel to each of the EU and Schengen Area’s states despite the level of the virus spread. This document will act as a passport when visiting tourist attractions or public events.
A slow and lonely back to normal for one and a light in the tunnel for another, hopes are the electronic Green Certificate to restart the summer 2021 tourism sector and to speed up the vaccination process.