Updated 8 June: Spain has announced that it has started issuing the Digital Green Certificate 20 days before it becomes mandatory, becoming thereby one of the first EU countries to be able to issue and recognize the document that will be mandatory for member states to provide from 1 July. The Spanish Government says that its issue will be unrolled progressively and on a trial basis throughout June though all certificates issued in this period will be valid. This week, the Spanish regional Governments will start the issue, accrediting vaccination or recovery in the first place but adding functionalities over coming weeks so that the whole country will be ready to issue electronic and hard-copy certificates from 1 July.
These certificates will accredit that the holder satisfies one of three conditions, either being vaccinated, recovered from covid, or has tested negative. Spain confirms that the EU Digital COVID Certificate will be free of charge and available in electronic and paper format, both containing an easily scannable and readable QR code. Secretary General for Digital Health, Information and Innovation, Alfredo González Gómez, said that “Thanks to the work of the professionals of the National Health System, both the Ministry and the regional governments, it will be possible that in just over a month, millions of Spaniards will be able to have this certificate to facilitate their international mobility”. The minister added that the new system “demonstrates both the enormous potential of new technologies applied to health and the excellent collaboration that exists in the national system between the Government of Spain and the regional governments”.
Spain has reminded travellers that as of yesterday, all fully vaccinated people may enter the country wherever they come from as long as they provide proof of vaccination if they come from or via a country or area at risk. Accepted vaccines are those authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) and at least 14 days must have elapsed since the full vaccination schedule was completed. In addition, all people travelling to Spain from an EU or Schengen Area country will be able to do so with their own nationally issued EU Digital covid certificate proving that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19, OR have a negative test result (including antigen tests for the first time), OR had covid in the last six months and have recovered from it.
Updated 6 June: The Spanish Government has confirmed that the EU’s Digital Green Certificate will be operative in Spain from 1 July, and will enable people to accredit that they’ve been vaccinated against covid, or have either tested negative or recovered from the condition. The document will facilitate mobility among EU member states though all are stressing that this is not a “passport” as it’s been popularly called, nor a document that represents imposed conditions or restrictions to the right of free movement, a fundamental principle of the EU. It is simply an instrument for easing movement between countries within the EU and protecting health.
The document will be free, issued in paper or mobile-compatible digital form, secure, valid throughout the EU, and come in the language of the issuing country plus English. It will also have a.QR code with minimal essential information and a digital seal to guarantee authenticity and integrity. At the point of travel to another EU country, holders of the document will have the QR code scanned with verification being provided easily and quickly. Those without a DGC will be able to travel but will have to comply with slower processes of admission as individual test results or medical certificates are checked separately, and where countries may have extra controls that the DGC won’t be constrained by.
Updated 26 May: Plenty of speculation is swirling about the imminence or otherwise of the European digital green pass known as the covid passport. Although the pass is expected to have a scannable barcode, individual countries will still be able to impose individual conditions on entry depending on how the pandemic is evolving region by region and the rate of vaccination in any given country: the code will not contain any personal data but will be used to share with other member states confirmation that the traveller has been vaccinated or, in the absence of a vaccine, has either recovered from covid or tested negative for it.
The EU has confirmed that it’s aiming for the system to come into effect on 1 July with member states having six weeks to bring it fully into effect after that. So, the current context for this system is that it cannot come into place before the end of next month earliest with member countries required to issue certificates within six weeks of it coming into force. Spain itself has confirmed that the document will be free, issued in digital or paper form, be secure, valid throughout the EU, and in the national language of the holder’s country plus English. The digital version will be storable on mobile phones. The document will not be compulsory but obviously travellers without one could find their journey’s airport processing takes longer.
Updated 17 March: To comply with measures trying to limit the spread of covid, travellers to and within the EU have been asked to date to provide any of a range of documents like test results, personal declarations, etc, but obviously these have not been of a standardised format, and the EU Commission says that this has resulted in travellers experiencing problems when moving within the EU, as well as generating reports of fraudulent or forged documents. The Commission has therefore been working on a common approach to what’s been popularly called a vaccine passport, and today it has announced plans for a Digital Green Certificate, avoiding the word passport because it implies a universal entitlement and therefore could be suggestive of discrimination against those not yet vaccinated.
As yet, this is just a legislative proposal which still has to be approved by both the EU Council and European Parliament. If and when it is in place, however, it will be a temporary measure until the WHO declares the pandemic over, and it will provide proof that the person has either been vaccinated against covid or has recovered from it, or alternatively has received a negative test result – this last because the EU says it would be discriminatory otherwise against those who couldn’t have had the vaccine at the point they need to travel. The certificate will be available free of charge either in electronic or paper form, and will include a QR code to guarantee authenticity.
The Commission says that it has also adopted a complementary proposal to ensure that the Certificate will be issued to non-EU nationals who reside in member states (eg British residents in Spain), and it stresses that while there’ll be separate proposals for non-EU citizens which are necessary for legal reasons. there will be no difference in treatment of citizens and eligible non-EU citizens. Importantly, the certificate is not intended as a pre-condition for travel, but neither is it a guarantee of free movement. What it will do is free the holder from any testing or quarantine requirements, and member states would have to accept it as they would be required to accept any vaccine proof that entitled arrivals to a waiver from restrictions set in that country.
Although the certificate is intended for EU nationals and residents within the EU, the plan also allows, subject to Commission approval, countries like Spain, with an economy heavily reliant on tourism, to agree bilateral arrangements with non-EU member states like the UK. There is an EU Commission Q&A page HERE on the proposals but obviously this is still early days. Spain, however, will welcome the announcement because it has been pushing for months for such a scheme under pressure from the tourism sector to introduce such a plan unilaterally for economic reasons, something the country did not want to do if there were a coordinated EU system.
Original post 1 March: Spanish tourism minister Reyes Maroto and the tourism ministers of Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Malta and Slovakia have issued a joint statement calling for a rapid, united, and coordinated approach to facilitate the return of cross-border mobility, of course for tourism but also for the survival and recovery of the mainly small and medium-sized business that provide millions of jobs in the sector throughout the bloc. The statement can be read in English HERE.
Maroto said that what is needed are digital health information tools that can be interoperable between EU countries such as the vaccination certificate and which can restore mobility interrupted by the pandemic and, a paramount concern, guarantee the resumption of safe travel. She stressed that the priority must remain to speed up the whole vaccination process, including procurement and distribution, and urged the Commission to draw up a coordinated proposal to develop an ambitious programme for the recovery of EU tourism.
As it happens, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said today that a legislative proposal for a Digital Green Pass will be presented this month with the aim of providing proof that a person has been vaccinated or that they have a negative test result if they have not yet been vaccinated, and with full protection given to data, security and privacy. Von der Leyen said that the proposed Digital Green Pass should gradually allow residents in the EU to move safely within the bloc or abroad.
At this stage of just an announcement about a legislative proposal obviously details are scarce but internal sources say that the end plan will be something of an ethical minefield that will take enormous care to get right but that eventually, there will be no way to restart any general public movement without something of the kind to ensure safety. EU Council President Charles Michel, for his part, said that the public shouldn’t expect anything along these lines to be rushed and that we are looking at several months before the plans reach a more concrete stage.
Again, loud and clear for anyone who cares to hear, there are the words months, gradual, eventually … and above all, safety … .