EU’s COVID jab certificate scheme goes live in seven countries

The first batch of EU countries have started recognising the vaccination status of travellers using digital vaccine certificates as the bloc moves towards freeing up travel ahead of the summer period.

Germany, Greece, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Croatia and Poland are the first to start using the scheme, which will allow people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, tested negative recently, or recovered from the disease to travel without restriction within the EU.

The document – which is available in digital or paper form – will be “free of charge, secure and accessible to all,” according to the European Commission, and may be scanned at the point of departure or arrival within the EU.

National authorities are in charge of issuing the certificates, which bear a QR code that includes key information including a unique identifier designed to prevent forgery. In the interest of privacy, all data remains on the certificate and isn’t stored or retained when it is scanned in another EU member state.

The commission has set a 1 July deadline for the remaining 20 member states to sign up, after which a phase in period will take place until 12 August.

While not a legal requirement for travel, the aim is for all EU member states to be in a position to accept the certificate by the peak summer holiday season “to help ensure that restrictions currently in place can be lifted in a coordinated manner”.

EU countries are still free to impose their own restrictions on travel, for example if they are concerned about the emergence of new variants.

“The EU Digital COVID Certificate shows the value added of effective e-health solutions for our citizens,” said Stella Kyriakides, the EU commissioner for health and food safety

“EU citizens are looking forward to travelling again, and they want to do so safely,” she added. “Having an EU certificate is a crucial step on the way.”

The UK meanwhile has updated the NHS app (note: not the NHS COVID-19 app used for contact tracing) so that it can be used to prove vaccination status when traveling abroad – but according to media reports has abandoned plans to make certification a requirement of entry to mass events, pubs or shops.

Not all countries will accept the NHS app as proof of vaccination alone however, so people may still have to adhere to other rules when traveling abroad, such as taking a pre-departure test.

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