European Parliament gives final approval to EU travel certificate

European Parliament gives final approval to EU travel certificate
Credit: European Parliament

The European Parliament has officially approved the EU Digital Travel Certificate, which will facilitate free movement within the EU without further restrictions during the pandemic, on Wednesday.

From 1 July onwards, all EU member states will accept the certificates, which will show that a person has been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, has a recent negative PCR Covid-19 test, or has recently been infected and has recovered, and is therefore immune.

The certificate, which will be issued free of charge by national authorities and be available in either digital or paper format containing a QR code, will remain in place for 12 months, a Parliament press release confirmed. 

All EU countries must accept vaccination certificates issued in other member states for vaccines authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), however, individual Member States can decide on their own whether they also accept certificates that have been approved by certain countries or have been approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for emergency use. 

The EU Member States will not be able to impose additional travel restrictions on certificate holders, including quarantines or additional testing, "unless they are necessary and proportionate to safeguard public health."

If the "emergency brake" mechanism to reintroduce restrictive measures must be implemented, for example, if new variants of concern appear, or if a country’s epidemic situation faces a rapid deterioration, scientific evidence, "including epidemiological data published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC)" will have to be taken into account.

A country should then announce the new measures to other member states, 48 hours in advance if possible.

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The EU has freed up €100 million in funding to support affordable testing, whilst Belgium has already announced that people who have not yet received an invitation to get vaccinated but want to travel this summer will get two free PCR tests from the government.

The Belgian coronavirus travel certificate, which will allow the country to implement the EU’s Digital COVID Certificate is expected to be available from 17 June at the earliest, according to Digital Flanders, which is responsible for the digitalisation of public services in the region.

More than a million EU citizens have already received a Covid-19 certificate, according to Commissioner Didier Reynders, as nine countries, including Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia, Poland, Lithuania, Spain, and the Czech Republic, have started issuing them.

The European Council will now adopt the text for the travel certificate, after which it will be published in the Official Journal, so that it can be put into practice from 1 July.

From the same date, the travel rules for non-EU arrivals to enter Belgium and for residents of the country returning will change.

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