EU member states, including the Republic, should start issuing Covid passports if possible before July 1st, the European Commission urged on Monday.
The Government last week pledged to introduce the proposed EU digital Covid certificate, meant to restore freedom of movement in the bloc, from July 19th as part of its plan to reopen international travel.
In a statement, the commission called on member states to make use of national laws to start issuing the certificates before the regulation governing them comes into effect on July 1st.
The commission said it would back this by launching its system to allow states to verify each other’s certificates, which officials call its “gateway”, on Tuesday, June 1st.
“Given that no personal data is exchanged via the EU gateway, member states could already make use of its functionality,” said the statement.
Didier Reynders, commissioner for justice, pointed out that vaccination campaigns were cutting virus infection rates across the EU, while countries were lifting restrictions.
“Today, we are proposing that member states co-ordinate this gradual lifting of free movement restrictions, taking into account our new common tool: the EU digital Covid certificate,” he said.
“We now expect member states to make best use of this instrument and the recommendation to allow everyone to move freely and safely again.”
Stella Kyriakides, commissioner for health and food safety, stated that freedom of movement was one of EU citizens' most cherished rights.
“We want to make sure that we can move towards the reopening of our societies in the weeks ahead safely and in a co-ordinated way,” she said.
“As vaccination is progressing with increasing speed, we can be confident that safe free movement without restrictions can gradually resume again.”
Exempt from restrictions
Under the system, fully vaccinated and recovered people holding certificates will be exempt from quarantines and travel curbs.
Those with valid test certificates will also be exempt from restrictions. The commission is proposing that the exemption applies where someone has a negative PCR test 72 hours before travelling or a negative antigen test 48 hours before departure.
The certificates feature a public key, held on a national directory, confirming that the holder has been vaccinated or is immune or has tested negative.
The EU’s gateway allows member states to access each other’s gateways to validate travellers’ certificates.
Last week, Taoiseach Micheál Martin pledged that the Republic would introduce the certificates on July 19th, weeks earlier than originally planned.
The announcement followed demands from airlines and unions representing aviation workers that the Government implement the system from July 1st, instead of the end of that month or sometime in early August.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar had said that the Republic would need six weeks to implement the system needed to issue the certificates, indicating that they would not be ready until August.