EU proposes digital certificate for summer travel

The EU Commission has said a digital travel certificate system will be a temporary measure in place until the end of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A digital travel certificate looks set to be created for EU citizens that would see them present border police with digital proof of a negative test PCR test, confirmation that they have contracted the virus and are immune, or that they have been vaccinated against Covid-19.

The proposal to create vaccine passports that would prevent unvaccinated people from travelling to other EU countries was resisted at a commission meeting after stiff opposition from French officials in particular.

They argued that a vaccine passport system would be discriminatory towards those who had no access to vaccines, or preferred not to take the injection.

The World Health Organization (WHO) also voiced their opposition to requiring vaccinations for travel, telling EU leaders they are working towards “an international framework” for safe travel.

European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said the proposed digital certificate would be “for all EU citizens, their families when they’re leaving the EU or living abroad”.

“It’ll also be for the European Economic Area (EEA), because we want to work with Norway and Iceland,” he said, whilst confirming Switzerland will also be included in the arrangement.

The EU has left the door open to accepting Russia’s “Sputnik V ” or China’s “Sinovac” and “Sinopharm” vaccines as part of the digital certificate process, an issue that will be left to the discretion of each member state.

The Irish Travel Agents’ Association’s chief executive Pat Dawson described the proposal as the “first step towards a common path to a safe and sustained re-opening of the travel industry, ensuring the safe movement of people from EU country to country, whether a business or leisure traveller”.

“{We are} not encouraging anyone to travel at the moment or to consider travel until Public Health says otherwise. However, we have been calling on the government for pre-departure airport testing for months. Travel is not just ‘bucket and spades’ leisure holidays. It is also corporate travel and for those who need to visit friends and relatives.”

It is expected that each member state will be responsible for issuing the digital certificate, and that restrictions could be lifted in a coordinated manner to allow EU-wide travel to recommence before the summer.

Member states that maintain quarantining requirements for certificate holders after that point will be expected to issue an explanation to the EU Commission.

The digital certificate system would cease to operate when the WHO declares an end to the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is expected the proposal will pass with the broad support of member states and the EU parliament.

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