The Irish Times view on the EU digital Covid-19 certificate: getting Europe moving again

Just because people can more easily travel from mid-July does not mean that they should

The new European Union digital Covid-19 certificate will allow travelers to move between member states provided they are fully vaccinated, have recovered from the virus or can show a negative test result. Photograph: Benjemin Girette/Bloomberg

The new European Union digital Covid-19 certificate will allow travelers to move between member states provided they are fully vaccinated, have recovered from the virus or can show a negative test result. Photograph: Benjemin Girette/Bloomberg

 

Ireland will reach an important landmark in its reopening process on Monday when members of the public begin to receive digital vaccination certificates that will ease the way to a resumption of travel within the European Union. The documents are not a condition of travel, but they will ease passage through the continent’s airports and, by removing the need to quarantine, will provide a boost to the troubled tourism industry. Their introduction is also symbolically important, signalling the resumption of intra-EU travel after a devastating year.

The European Commission had been under pressure, from the tourism-dependent south in particular, to design a system of co-ordinated travel to cut down on paperwork and prevent states from adopting their own rules. Their airline and travel industry was also desperate for technology to facilitate safe travel for vaccinated and non-vaccinated citizens. The digital pass will certify that an individual has been fully vaccinated, has recovered from Covid-19 or has had a negative test.

If a way can be found for the pass to be used domestically for indoor dining, that could be a tolerable short-term solution

Under the new system, states will retain their discretion to limit travel from certain states and to advise against travel in certain circumstances. For example, Germany responded to Portugal’s rising Delta variant prevalence by banning most travellers from the country. On Thursday, France’s European affairs minister Clément Beaune said he was advising French people to avoid Portugal and Spain, where infections are also increasing sharply, for their summer holidays. Here, the Government continues to advise against non-essential travel.

That’s sensible. The vaccination programme creates some space to allow citizens to travel safely. From July 19th, when the Government formally adopts the EU digital certificate, people will be able more easily to visit relatives they have not seen for a long time, for example. If a way can be found for the pass to be used domestically for indoor dining, that could be a tolerable short-term solution given the advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) that people should not for now be permitted to eat or drink inside pubs or restaurants without being fully vaccinated. Otherwise, the country will find itself in the odd position, from July 19th, of easing the way for people to travel across Europe while telling them they cannot sit in a café in Dublin.

Either way, public messaging on travel will be important in coming weeks. Just because people can more easily travel from mid-July does not mean that they should. Non-essential flying should in general be discouraged. The Delta variant is spreading rapidly across Europe, and a very large share of the population remains vulnerable to it. A few more weeks of large-scale vaccination will help to reduce the size of that cohort. Forgoing a holiday in the sun will be a small price to pay to keep fellow citizens out of harm’s way.

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