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A million Europeans obtain EU Covid health pass ahead of vote

More than one million Europeans have obtained the new EU Covid health certificate being rolled out in each country to unlock travel within the bloc, the European Commission said on Tuesday.

A million Europeans obtain EU Covid health pass ahead of vote
A policewoman at the Bregana border crossing between Croatia and Slovenia scans QR code on a EU's digital Covid passport on June 2, 2021. (Photo by Denis LOVROVIC / AFP)

EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders announced the figure to the European Parliament ahead of a vote to enshrine the scheme in law in time for the continent’s all-important summer tourism season.

It is expected to be passed by a big majority after agreement between MEPs and the EU’s 27 member states on details, with the vote result known early on Wednesday.

The certificate, also known as a Covid health pass or Covid immunity pass, is to be used for intra-EU travel from July 1st, which would then spare travellers the need for quarantine or further testing for travellers.

It will show the bearer’s immunity to Covid-19 either through vaccination or previous infection, or their negative test status.

But the commission wants as many EU countries as possible to start earlier. But it relies on countries launching their own digital Covid passes that can be recognised across the EU. The EU will not produce its own app. Some countries are further ahead of others.

A spokesman for the EU Commission told The Local: “Every member state will need to develop their national implementation for the EU Digital Covid Certificate. National wallet apps could be developed, but are not the only option. Integration in existing tracing or other apps, commercial solutions, digital storage of PDFs and of course paper certificates are also possible.”

Justice Commissioner Reynders said: “The more certificates we can already issue, the easier the process will be during the summer — otherwise, we risk a big bang on the first of July, which we cannot afford.”

READ ALSO: How will the EU’s Covid passports work for travellers?

Nine countries

As of Tuesday, nine EU countries were already issuing the certificates — including the sunny tourist destinations of Greece, Spain and Croatia. It is also being trialled in parts of Germany.

Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Lithuania and Poland were the others.

“More than a million citizens have already received such certificates, and many more will follow in the next weeks and months,” Reynders said.

The EU Digital Covid Certificate can be presented either in digital format, on a smartphone for example, or printed out on paper.

It features a QR code for verification, which border officials and venue staff can use to check against digital signatures stored securely in Luxembourg servers.

Only minimal data of the bearer are included on the certificates, to prevent identity skimming, and the EU legislation surrounding their use is due to expire after a year, so that they do not become a fixture with potential Big Brother uses in the future.

EU lawmakers and capitals also agreed that, when it comes to proof of vaccinations, only the jabs authorised by the European Medicines Agency — so far those from BioNTech/Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — would be accepted in all EU countries.

But individual countries can also decide to accept, for their territory only, others, such as one produced by China, or Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.

Money and concessions

To prevent discrimination against the unvaccinated — particularly younger Europeans who have not yet been able to access jabs given in priority to the elderly — much emphasis has also been put on testing.

The parliament failed to make Covid tests for travel free of charge, but extracted money and concessions from the European Commission to make them more affordable.

Reynders said work was ongoing to also expand the use of the EU Digital Covid Certificate so that it is accepted beyond Europe.

Talks have been under way with the United States, for some sort of mutual recognition of vaccination status.

But have run up against the problem that there is no single federally backed certificated in the US, only a myriad of state and private vaccination cards almost impossible to authenticate abroad.

Member comments

  1. To share something good, I watch this youtube channel myself: A Voice In The Desert And recommend to anyone wanting to learn more.

    Please get both doses of the vaccines and use a mask at least till everyone has both doses, preventing covid-19 deaths and damage.

    1. So happy to see Europe is implementing a vaccine passport so tourist destinations can return to some form of normalcy. I live in Orlando, FL USA and I have been vaccinated and given a CDC QR code proof of vaccination. The author of the article mentioned that while up to 70% of Americans have been completely vaccinated or at least have one of two doses and have a QR code, our CDC cards are administered by state governments, not the federal ( national) government. I hope President Biden ( sane , instead of our insane former president) will implement a national vaccine for those citizens that request one. I have friends in Sweden I have not visited in years, and was hoping to visit last summer. Maybe in the fall vaccinated US citizens can visit EU nations an spend our dollars to help industries that rely on tourists to survive.

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TRAVEL NEWS

‘Only the rich will travel’: How EU rules could cost Spain 11 million tourists

EU measures to reduce the aviation sector's net emissions by 2050 could have a huge impact on Spain's tourism industry and economy, the country's main airline and tourism associations have warned.

'Only the rich will travel': How EU rules could cost Spain 11 million tourists

Leading airline bosses have warned that EU plans to reduce the aviation industry’s net emissions to zero by 2050 could have a major impact on the Spanish tourism sector, with potential losses of 11 million international tourists a year, according to a report.

The startling figure comes from a report made by consulting firm Deloitte, who estimate that the loss of tourists could mean a reduction in Spain’s GDP by around 1.6 percent (roughly €23 billion) and the loss of 430,000 jobs by 2030. 

The economic impact would be felt across different sectors, too, with the hospitality sector projected to lose €3.6 billion, and the new tax measures on aviation alone would mean a 0.9 percent drop in GDP and 236,000 jobs lost.

READ ALSO: Spain eyes tourism record after ‘dazzling’ summer surge

For a country like Spain, whose tourism sector makes almost 13 percent of its overall GDP, the socioeconomic effects could be dramatic.

Spain is the second most visited tourist destination in the world, with over 80 million visitors a year, and it is expected that it could be one of the countries most effected by the incoming changes to the aviation sector as eight out of every ten international visitors to Spain come by plane.

The Deloitte report was presented at an event jointly held by the ALA, Spain’s airline association, and the CEOE, its business federation, during which the presidents of both bodies met with the bosses of some of the biggest airlines in the Spanish market.

‘Only the rich will travel’

The environmental measures wouldn’t only have an impact on the Spanish economy or its big airlines, however.

At the meeting Jesús Cierco, Corporate Director at Iberia Express, expressed his fear that “these measures will make only the elites able to travel,” suggesting that any increased costs to the aviation industry could be passed down to the consumer. These include the use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) , the restriction of emission rights, the application of a tax on kerosene and the possible application of a €7.85 tax on airline tickets.

The Deloitte report suggests that the use of sustainable fuel to meet the 2050 deadline, which is as much as 6 times more expensive than normal fuel, combined with a tax on kerosene and reduced CO2, which will also become more expensive, mean that costs could rise for the consumer – in this case tourists hoping for cheap flights abroad. 

READ ALSO: How Spain is imposing caps on visitor numbers for its top attractions

Javier Gándara, president of ALA, explained that “airlines are committed to achieving zero net emissions by 2050 and we are already on the path of decarbonisation.”

“The sector agrees with the environmental measures that contribute to achieving this goal,” he added, “and we are willing to assume an extra cost to the extent that they contribute to the decarbonisation of the sector.”

Gándara did however warn that the measures could have an “impact on the tourism sector,” something he considers “an economic pillar for Spain.”

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