The EU Commission, the executive branch of the EU, completed the procedural and legislative framework for implementation of the health status passport by the beginning of June and now all 27 EU member states, except Ireland, have started issuing it. In the case of Ireland, which is not a part of the Schengen zone, the delay in issuing the EU COVID passport, also referred to as the Digital Green Certificate, is down to technical reasons, and the Irish Health Service Executive intends to start issuing the document shortly.
The EU Commission had earlier explained that the purpose of the certificate is to ensure that ‘when travelling, every Digital Green Certificate holder will have the same rights as citizens of the visited member state who have been vaccinated, tested or recovered.’
One document, three types
The EU COVID-19 vaccine passport/certificate is a one-piece document that can be issued to a traveller in both a paper and digital format. Depending on the traveller’s status, there are three types of EU COVID-19 passport:
- Vaccination passport: will prove that its holder has been vaccinated while also containing additional information on the vaccine, such as when the doses were administered and who is the manufacturer.
- Test certificate: all travellers who recently test negative for a PCR or Rapid Antigen test can obtain this certificate.
- Recovery certificate: for travellers who have recently been infected with and recovered from COVID-19.
Those holding such a document will be able to travel throughout Europe without the need to quarantine or test for COVID-19 (though the member states may impose such restrictions on particular countries with a higher COVID-19 rate).
Every certificate contains the following information on the holder:
- Name and surname
- Date of birth
- The member state issuing the certificate
- QR code, through which it is possible to securely verify the authenticity, integrity and validity of the certificate, as well as a digital signature. The certificates are issued in two languages, in English and the official language(s) of the issuing country.
Attempts at interoperability
The EU’s vaccine certificate is open to global initiatives such as the ones initiated by the United Nations, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
The European Commission has officially recognised Switzerland’s EU digital COVID-19 vaccination passport, making it the first country outside the EU and EEA (the European Economic Area) to acquire such recognition. It means that travellers from Switzerland are allowed to travel across the EU, without submitting any testing requirements or undergoing quarantine.
EU officials have also reached out to the Russian Ministry of Health with a proposal to mutually recognise each other’s COVID-19 vaccine passports in a bid to ease travelling restrictions.