Traveling unchained: the European Union Digital Covid Certificate
With the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines, many countries have been rushing in loosening the restrictions set for travelers.
The European Union is the latest of the bunch to jump on that bandwagon, putting in the forefront the European Union Digital COVID Certificate (EUDCC).
But what’s with all the buzz surrounding this certificate?
Let’s dive into it.
WHAT IS IT?
The EUDCC is digital proof that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, has attested a negative PCR/Antigen test, or has recently recovered from the virus.
The way it works is fairly simple, the certificate contains a QR code protected by a digital signature. Once the signature is checked, the staff scans the QR code which will contain the information showcasing the COVID status of the person in question. In theory, all individuals holding this certificate should be exempted from extra measures like quarantining or further testing, “unless necessary to safeguard public health”, the European Council mentions.
According to the European Commission, starting July 1st, all EU member states are encouraged to implement the EUDCC in their travel-related procedures.
However, keep in mind that each country is free to request other documents like vaccine passports instead of using the certificate as the sole tool for evaluating travel entry. It is also safe to mention that Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland will adopt the EUDCC.
WHO AND HOW CAN YOU GET IT?
This Certificate is mainly targeted at Europeans but, virtually, anyone coming to the EU is eligible to get it.
The rollout of these certificates will be made through national authorities like test centers, and health authorities.
An important notice to mention is that having this certificate is not mandatory to travel to Europe. However, free movement within EU states will be much easier once the certificate is acquired. So a third country traveler’s roadmap might involve something like traveling to a specific EU region then getting the certification there to enjoy free movement within the area. Plus, it is free of charge so might as well make use of it. (consider subscribing to our newsletter to check our latest post on countries that are allowed entry in Europe).
Another fact to take into account is that these certificates can be given in paper format or digitally using the phone. Check your destination’s government website to know what are the requirements to apply for the EUDCC.
WILL ALL VACCINES BE ADMITTED?
The certification itself can be attributed to any COVID-19 vaccine.
But lifting the restriction on free movement will be a state’s own decision. The European Commission advises accepting vaccination certificates for vaccines that were approved by the EMA(European Medical Agency) that is:
Nevertheless, countries are allowed to include other vaccines in their green list.
CAN UNVACCINATED PEOPLE USE IT?
Before the introduction of the EUDCC and the lifting of restrictions, travelers were required to get a vaccine passport before boarding, essentially making a separation between vaccinated individuals and unvaccinated individuals.
As a forethought, this made sense as it allowed better protection for those still waiting to receive their shot. However, many started raising concerns around this separation (among them the WHO) as it did not take into account places where it is still hard to get vaccinated, which made it unfair when comparing countries where the vaccination rollout is at a higher rate.
From there on, reliance on other proofs of safety was issued, among them, this digital certificate. Theoretically, it prevents any discrimination that unvaccinated travelers can receive as it takes into account not only the COVID test results but also recent recovery from the virus, which should provide immunity.
THE DATA CONCERN
Once the EUDCC was introduced many have started questioning the data that this digital certificate might hold on individuals. With concerns surrounding digital security, and protecting personal data, it is only fair to ask questions regarding the EUDCC and if it’s interference with one’s privacy.
The European Commission has been quick to address these questions stating that the certificate will only contain the necessary information that allows safe travels. These being:
This information will remain in the EU member state that issued the certification only and will not be retained during verification processes from a country to another.
This, in hindsight, allows for a more decentralized approach when storing data, which will provide for better digital security, and protection of personal information.
Didier Reynders, the European Commissioner for justice, emphasized that there will be no central EU database holding the information stored by the certificate, and added that the only characteristics of the certificate that will be checked are the issuer of the certificate and the signature of the holder, and this, to verify the validity and authenticity of the certificate without breaching any personal data, thus preventing fraud and forgery.
Pushing forward this certificate is, in its essence, a necessary move for many EU countries, especially those that are dependant on tourism like Itay, Greece, and Spain. If we take into account the tourism industry’s contribution to the total GDP of the EU (10.9% in 2018), we start to understand the effect of travelers on the region’s economy, and this effect becomes much clearer once we factor in the total workforce employed in this sector (27.3 million workers or 11.7% of total employment rate).
Thus, it is only logical for the European Union to start opening borders, and provide a unified system of safety while doing so.
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