The European health certificate comes into force from Thursday to facilitate travel and relaunch tourism within the European Union this summer, however, under the threat of new disruptions linked to the Delta variant.
Vaccines, tests, immunity: how does it work?
– Vaccination, negative test or cure –
“The European Covid digital certificate”, the official name of this health pass, is free, and must be recognized in the 27 EU countries, plus Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway.
Many EU countries have already started to make it available. From Thursday, it must be issued and accepted throughout the European area.
It applies to three situations: it certifies that a person has been vaccinated against Covid-19, that they have passed a negative test, or that they are immune after contracting the disease.
It is up to the destination country to decide whether to accept rapid antigenic testing in addition to PCR. The EU recommends accepting both and harmonizing their period of validity (no more than 72 hours before arrival for PCRs and no more than 48 hours for antigens).
To prove that they have been immunized after infection, a person must provide a positive PCR test proving their infection. The validity period of this positive test is set at a maximum of 180 days, but states can decide to reduce it. Serological tests are not yet considered reliable enough to attest to this immunity.
– How long?
This regulation is valid for twelve months.
A period of “progressive application” is planned, with a grace period until August 12 for countries which are not ready by July 1 to issue certificates according to the European model.
During this period, the other states must accept national documents on condition that they contain the data required at European level.
– Vaccines accepted –
Countries are required to accept on their soil travelers vaccinated with the four products authorized at European level: those of Pfizer / BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
Member States may – but are not obliged – also to admit people vaccinated with serums authorized in certain EU countries (such as the Russian Sputnik used in Hungary), or with products approved by the WHO ( like Chinese Sinopharm).
– No more quarantine?
The certificate is supposed to exempt its holder from an additional test or quarantine on arrival, but it is still possible for a Member State to introduce restrictions if the situation of the country or region of origin of the traveler is deteriorated. In this case the State must inform the Commission and the other countries if possible 48 hours before the introduction of these restrictions.
The Delta variant has already led Germany to add Portugal – where this variant has become predominant – to its list of countries at risk, which prohibits practically all arrivals from this state.
Travelers can consult the “Re-open EU” site which lists the conditions applicable in the various European countries.
– Digital or paper medium –
The certificate contains a QR code and a digital signature attesting to its authenticity, which can be read by all EU countries. It can be presented to the authorities responsible for controlling it in digital form on a smartphone, or printed on paper.
It is up to the Member States to decide whether they integrate this certificate into their national tracing application, or whether they use a separate application.
– Personal data –
The text provides that the certificate must only contain “strictly necessary” personal data, in compliance with European regulations (GDPR).
These data are not exchanged between countries, only the key allowing to verify the authenticity of the certificate needing to be transmitted. The possession of such data by the country of destination or transit is prohibited.
– What use?
European regulations concern free movement, but Member States can decide to use this European certificate for other purposes (concerts, festivals, etc.) within the framework of their national law.
– Third country –
The European Union is in discussions with a number of third countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States, for mutual recognition and interoperability of documents.
Opposition to the Covid certificate
The Mons doctor David Bouillon launched a legal action against the Belgian state: “A blood test should be enough to travel:”, estimates the doctor, quoted by Sud.Info be.
The magazine specifies that the doctor is suing the Belgian State and the European Commission because he considers that the Belgian covid certificate would not respect the rights of the patient and would be discriminatory.