By John Flett
Europe Begins Issuing Digital COVID Certificates to Facilitate Free Movement
The first European Union Digital COVID Certificates (EUDCC) have begun to be issued signaling the beginnings of a safe restart to travel for EU citizens and a positive sign for the aviation industry in the region ahead of the summer season. The certificate will be ‘proof that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, tested negative, or recovered from an infection.’ The EU Regulation governing the EUDCC comes into effect on 01 July with a six-week phasing-in period for the Member States requiring more time for its introduction.
Didier Reynders, Commissioner for Justice, said, “The EU Digital COVID Certificate provides European citizens with a common tool to allow them to move freely and safely again. It showcases Europe’s technological leadership in full respect of our values and principles: data protection, inclusiveness, and proportionality. It is important that all Member States use the next weeks to get fully ready, so the system will be fully up and running on 1 July.”
Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia and Poland this week began issuing the certificates after completing technical testing of the gateway. The majority of the other EU Member States are ‘technically ready’ to begin issuing the EUDCC and are expected to follow in the coming weeks.
Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton said: “The Go-Live of the Gateway…is an important step which will allow Member States to start using the Gateway and start issuing EU Digital COVID Certificates. Seven Member States is a good start. I encourage others to follow as soon as possible. The timely preparation will allow the full system to be up and running by 1 July – when the proposal enters into application and the EU will be on time to open up again this summer.”
The EUDCC will contain an individual’s name, date of birth, date of issuance, relevant information about vaccine/ test/recovery and a unique identifier. Concerns regarding the use of personal data included in the EUDCC have been addressed with the guarantee that no data is stored or retained when the certificate is verified in another Member State.
In addition to the twenty-seven EU Member States, non-EU members Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland are also party to EUDCC. Switzerland is ‘technically ready’ to begin issuing while the other three countries are in the ‘test phase’. The United Kingdom is not a party to the EUDCC but has instead incorporated a similar means of vaccination status verification in the NHS (National Health Service) mobile app.
The EUDCC will be available at no charge and is designed to facilitate free movement without restriction though the commission stresses that ‘it will not be a pre-condition to free movement, which is a fundamental right in the EU.’