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17 Mar 2021

EU travel health passport Digital Green Certificate scheme Q&A

'Vaccine passport' proposal suggests evidence of inoculation, previous infection or negative test should be accepted for travel to Europe this summer
vaccine passport

The EU has set out plans for a health passport called the Digital Green Certificate, or Green Pass.

These certificates will provide evidence that a traveller has been vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19, or that they have tested negative for Covid. The certificate should be accepted for entry into all EU countries.

The proposal is focused on EU nationals, and those residing and working in the EU, but does say those 'staying in the EU who hold a Digital Green Certificate' should also be exempt from freedom of movement restrictions. That may mean travellers from the UK can use the Green Pass to travel to and take holidays in the EU.

The EU has said it wants to introduce the pass this summer. It has not set a date.

How does the Digital Green Certificate or Green Pass work?

It is essentially a health passport. The scheme, which the EU has proposed is adopted by all member states, will allow travellers to enter countries if they have been vaccinated, recovered from Covid-19 or recently tested negative for the virus.

It says the Green Pass can be issued digitally or in paper form, with each version including a QR code that border control and airlines would then use to check the certification.

Who issues the Digital Green Certificate?

It' s not clear. The EU has said 'national authorities are in charge of issuing the certificate. It could, for example, be issued by hospitals, test centres, health authorities.' That means it is likely to vary from country to country

The European Commission will build a gateway through which certificates across the EU can be checked, although it suggests it won't hold data centrally.

When will the scheme be introduced?

The Green Pass is a proposal at the moment, and has to be approved by member states. The EU has suggested that member states begin planning for its introduction immediately, with a rollout pencilled in for 'summer'.

Can UK travellers and holidaymakers use the Digital Green Certificate?

It's not clear. The scheme is primarily aimed at EU citizens and those residing and living in the bloc. However, it does say that those 'legally staying' in the EU should also be able to access the scheme. That would suggest that it could be used for non-essential travel and holiday.

It's likely the EU and UK will need to agree to the UK's participation in the scheme. That may take some time.

What about the plans Greece, Cyprus and other EU countries have announced allowing in UK holidaymakers

The EU would like member states to adopt a single approach to travel and health certificates, but it's unclear yet whether the Green pass will be adopted.

Greece and Cyprus have said they will accept UK holidaymakers who have been vaccinated this spring. They may not be willing to wait until the summer when the EU-wide scheme comes into place.

Will the Astrazenca vaccine be accepted for European travel?

Yes. The EU has said member states must accept those vaccines which have received EU approval - that includes the Astrazeneca vaccine.

Countries may prevent travellers who have had the Sputnik or Sinopharm vaccines from entry. Those vaccines are not approved by EU regulators, or used in the UK.

What sort of tests will be required?

This isn't detailed in the proposal. Currently individual countries detail which tests are required. This means each country has separate requirements on the number of tests needed, whether they accept PCR or other tests and how many tests you need to take. It can make getting the right tests confusing, and expensive for travellers.