Q&A: EU Covid-19 vaccine passes launch with 29 countries, but not Ireland

State only EU country not to be issuing Covid-19 certificates

The system is designed to work as free proof of vaccination, a negative test, or of recovery from Covid-19 in order to make it easier for citizens to travel between countries. Photograph: iStock

The system is designed to work as free proof of vaccination, a negative test, or of recovery from Covid-19 in order to make it easier for citizens to travel between countries. Photograph: iStock

 

The European Union’s Covid-19 certificate system formally launched on Thursday, with 29 countries now issuing certificates to their residents, and only Ireland delayed among member states.

All EU countries except Ireland are now issuing vaccine certificates to citizens, plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, under a system designed to ease travel throughout the continent.

Some 200 million certificates have already been issued under the system, according to the European Commission.

“In March, we promised to have an EU-wide system to facilitate free and safe travel within the EU by the summer holidays. Now we can confirm that the EU Digital COVID Certificate system is up and running,” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said.

“We are helping Europeans get back the freedom they value and cherish so much.”

When will we join?

Ireland is technically linked up to the system, and the Government has said it will be part of plans to ease travel on July 19th. The European Commission has said that the hack on the Health Service Executive slowed the technical implementation of the system in Ireland.

San Marino, Switzerland, and Vatican City are also linked up and are due to begin issuing the certificates. Some 21 countries had already begun issuing the certificates in advance of the formal launch, some as early as a month ago, when the technical system first went live.

How will it work?

The system is designed to work as free proof of vaccination, a negative test, or of recovery from Covid-19 in order to make it easier for citizens to travel between countries. The European Commission has said that €100 million is available in funding alongside the system to subsidise Covid-19 tests.

The certificates can be either in paper form or an app, similar to airline boarding passes. The proof of vaccination, negative test or recovery from Covid-19 is issued by health authorities within member states, meaning there is no EU database of the information.

In some countries, proof of vaccination is posted to people following their vaccination, or is issued on site, or at pharmacies. The user can then download the local Covid certificate app and scan in their vaccination details.

For countries that have digital health information systems, people can use their usual login details to access the app, where they will find their vaccine details already registered.

The proof of vaccination, a negative test, or recovery is displayed on the app or paper certificate in the form of a scannable QR code that is recognised across the 33 countries of the European Economic Area.

While 29 countries have begun issuing proof of vaccination, not every country has begun issuing proof of negative test results or proof of recovery from Covid-19, which can be slightly more complicated to prove.

What obligations do countries have now?

All countries in the system are obliged to recognise the certificates from Thursday and not to impose restrictions on those who are vaccinated “unless they are necessary and proportionate to safeguard public health”, according to the European Commission. It is ultimately up to each member state to choose its own health measures, but many countries have opted to lift all restrictions on vaccinated visitors from within the EU from two weeks after their final vaccination.