The European Union has taken an important step towards total reopening of its borders in the face of the summer season by reaching a consensus on the Covid digital certificate, which from next July 1 will allow its bearer to collect in a single document – physical or digital – information about their health situation regarding the coronavirus .
What has the European Union agreed?
Community negotiators they have agreed on how it will be used and what will be the format of the new coronavirus community certificate, a document that will be in force for one year and will contain information on whether a person is vaccinated, has had a coronavirus infection in the last half year or has tested negative in a PCR test in the last few days.
The certificate will serve throughout the EU, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway for vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which has for now validated drugs from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen.
It will also contain if the traveler has received any other vaccination approved by a Member State but not by the EMA, as in the case of Hungary, which also administers the Russian Sputnik V vaccine and the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine, although it will be up to each Member State to decide whether or not it considers them valid.
What steps remain before its entry into force?
With a view to be up and running by July 1, the legal process will continue with the review of the pact in parliamentary committee next week and its foreseeable approval in plenary session from June 7 to 10. In parallel, the Council will also give the green light to the pact in the coming weeks.
In the technical field, the pilot tests are progressing satisfactorily according to community sources: 18 of the 30 participating countriesSpain, among them, have already successfully completed tests on the legibility of the QR codes that will contain the certificates and for uploading and downloading the keys that prove its authenticity.
How can I get the certificate and what will it do for me?
Citizens may get one of these certificates if they have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, they have a recent negative PCR or, in case they want to prove that they have antibodies, a positive PCR dated up to six months. At the moment, the serological tests are not recognized by the certificate to prove a previous contagion, but the Commission must review their possible use after the summer.
The purpose of creating this document is incentivize travel within the EU and would not serve as the first to, for example, reopen cultural events at the national level, although it is not ruled out that a country develops extra legislation to use this same certificate for other purposes.
If I have the certificate, will I be able to travel without additional quarantines or PCRs to any EU country?
Not necessarily. The countries of the European Union have sovereignty over their borders and can always impose additional measures to travelers who arrive in their territory, as they have done during what we have been a pandemic.
In the approved regulation, the Member States agree to abstain to request this type of requirements from European certificate holders, but they reserve the right to introduce them if the epidemiological situation worsens, albeit in a “necessary and proportionate” manner.
If Member States want to impose such measures, they must notify its partners and the European Commission 48 hours in advance and specifying the reasons for imposing them, their scope, their duration and which bearers of the certificate are subject to or exempted from the measure.
In practice, each country will have full discretion to, for example, consider whether a person is fully vaccinated with single dose from Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Moderna, which in principle require two pricks for full immunization. They will also be able to reduce the period in which it is valid to present a positive PCR to prove that they have antibodies, set at a maximum of 180 days.
Will not be acceptedIn any case, PCR tests that have not been administered by authorized medical personnel (that is, those that are purchased in pharmacies for personal use).
Will PCRs be free?
No. Although it has been decided allocate an additional € 100 million Of European funds for the purchase of PCR, it is not yet known how they will be used or if they will finance tests for, for example, specific groups of the population. Parliament insisted in the negotiation that particular account be taken of people who travel frequently for work or studies or who have to cross the border for medical reasons or to care for loved ones.
Nevertheless, depends on each country decide whether to set limits on the prices of these tests, which will continue to be necessary for travel for people who have not yet agreed to the vaccination.
Both the Commission and Parliament, however, point to good pace of the immunization campaign in the Member States that will make PCR tests less and less necessary to travel abroad.