The European Commission proposed on Thursday to extend by a year the use of Covid-19 Certificates aimed at facilitating travel across the 27-nation bloc during the pandemic, up until the end of June 2023.
Despite the announcement by the director of the World Health Organization’s Europe office that Europe is now entering a ‘plausible endgame’ to the pandemic, the EU said the virus is still very prevalent on the continent.
‘At this stage it is not possible to determine the impact of a possible increase in infections in the second half of 2022 or of the emergence of new variants,’ the EU Commission said.
Didier Reynders, the EU Commissioner for Justice, said a failure to extend the scheme could lead to ‘confusion and obstacles’ if it expires while the pandemic is not over.
‘We cannot predict how the pandemic will evolve, but we can make sure that citizens continue to benefit from a certificate that works and is accepted wherever they go,’ said Reynders. ‘Without this extension, we risk having many divergent national systems, and all the confusion and obstacles that this would cause.’
‘The EU Digital Covid Certificate has proven an effective tool to facilitate safe and free travel. While I am looking forward to the day when it is no longer needed, in the meantime it will enable us to move around safely in Europe,’ he added.
To come into effect, the extension proposal must be accepted by EU members and the European Parliament.
The EU Covid Certificates entered into force in July 2021 and have been a successful tool to help EU citizens travel in the region during the pandemic without restrictions such as quarantine, by showing proof of being fully vaccinated, of having received a negative test result, or having recovered from Covid-19.
So far, EU countries have issued over 1.2 billion certificates. As of 31 January, 33 countries and territories are connected to the EU Digital Covid Certificate system, with more expected to join in the future.
The EU certificate is free of charge, and it is issued in digital or paper format in the country’s national language and English. It is valid throughout the EU and includes a QR code for verifying the information at the destination and guaranteeing its authenticity. The certificate contains the essential minimum data, such as name, date of birth, a unique identifier as well as the information on the vaccine, diagnostic tests or recovery from the disease
Under the updated rules in place since 1 February, EU countries must accept vaccination certificates for a period of nine months (precisely 270 days) following the administration of the last dose of the primary vaccination, or after the booster shot.
A negative PCR test obtained no more than 72 hours before travel or a negative rapid antigen test no more than 24 hours can also be included in the certificate, as can proof of recovery from Covid-19 no more than six months ago. ALSO READ: Spain changes antigen time validity for travellers who need to take Covid tests.
In addition to the extension, the EU’s executive branch proposed that certificates may be issued to people participating in clinical trials for Covid-19 shots to encourage vaccine research.
On 25 January, the EU Council agreed to update the rules to facilitate safe and free movement in the EU during the pandemic. The rules state that holders of valid certificates should in most cases not be subject to any additional restrictions when travelling within the EU. ALSO READ: EU countries aim to simplify travel rules within bloc with Covid certificates.
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