Latest: Coronavirus in Spain figures (25 Mar)
The European Union has released details of its plan to set up a travel certificate in order to help restore freedom of movement within the bloc for citizens who have been inoculated against Coronavirus. The certificate will show ‘whether the person has either been vaccinated, or has a recent negative test, or has recovered from Covid, and thus has antibodies,’ the EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said.
With summer approaching and many tourism-reliant countries – especially Spain – hoping for a return of visitors after numbers dropped by 80% in 2020, the European Union presented its proposal on Wednesday that would allow the bloc’s 450 million people — whether vaccinated or not — to travel freely across the 27-nation bloc by the summer.
The plan, which will be discussed next week during a summit of EU leaders, foresees the creation of vaccine certificates aimed at facilitating travel from one member state to the other.
The topic has been discussed for several weeks but has so far proved to be divisive. The travel industry and southern European countries dependent on tourism, such as Spain and Greece, have been pushing for the quick introduction of the measure, which could also help to avoid quarantines and testing requirements.
But several member states, including France, have argued that it would be premature and discriminatory to introduce such passes since a large majority of EU citizens haven’t had access to vaccines so far.
According to data compiled by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, less than 5% of EU citizens have been fully vaccinated amid delays in deliveries and production of vaccines. The European Commission, however, says it can achieve its goal that 70% of the EU adult population is vaccinated by the end of the summer.
The EU Commission is proposing that the so-called Digital Green Certificates should be free of charge, and delivered to EU residents who can prove they have been vaccinated, but also to those who have tested negative for Covid-19 or have proof that they recovered from it.
‘Being vaccinated will not be a precondition to travel,’ the EU Commission said. ‘All EU citizens have a fundamental right to free movement in the EU and this applies regardless of whether they are vaccinated or not. The Digital Green Certificate will make it easier to exercise that right, also through testing and recovery certificates.’
The commission proposed that all vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) should be automatically recognised for the certificate, but also offered governments the possibility to include other vaccines like Russia’s Sputnik or China’s Sinovac, which haven’t received EU market authorization.
The EU Commission guaranteed that ‘a very high level of data protection will be ensured’ and said the certificates will be issued in digital format to be shown either on smartphones or paper.
EU officials also hope that vaccine certificates will convince the member states that have introduced travel restrictions to lift their measures. The commission also said that the certificates should be suspended once the World Health Organization (WHO) declares the end of the Covid-19 pandemic. If agreed by the EU leaders, the proposal will need to be approved by EU lawmakers to enter into force.
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