What is Europe’s Digital Green Pass and how will it work to prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Are you keen to get travelling internationally again in the safest possible way? If like many people across the world you’ve been in and out of lockdowns over the past year and a half, the thought of heading to a sunny beach abroad may seem like a bliss – all on the condition that you can do it without putting your own and the health of others at risk, of course.

Over the course of the pandemic, governments across the world have been trying to find ways to allow their citizens to travel. In the summer of 2020, before vaccinations had become available, this largely revolved around placing countries on a red, amber, or green list depending on their rate of infection. Summer 2021 on the other hand is set to be significantly different with the announcement of digital health passes that people can use to show their vaccination, test and/or recovery status from COVID-19.

What is the new certificate?

The EU Digital COVID Certificate (EUDCC), or Digital Green Pass as it is sometimes referred to as, will allow for travel restrictions to lift across all 27 member states of Europe – and will be available for some specific non-EU countries, too. As of June 2021, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia, and Poland have already started issuing these certificates to their citizens.

The legislation is binding across the European Union and will officially come into force on July 1st, 2021. There will then be a six-week phasing-in period for any member states that need more time to prepare their digital infrastructure to support the scheme.

What does the certificate say?

The aim of the digital certificate is to facilitate free movement across the bloc, rather than to stop people travelling. If you’ve had one of the EU approved COVID-19 vaccines, you can select exactly which ones you took and the date of the injection. This will either reduce, or completely eliminate depending on local regulations, your need to quarantine on arrival or departure from one country to another. In some cases, it would also mean that you won’t need to take a pre-departure COVID-19 test if you have been fully vaccinated.

However, if you haven’t been vaccinated yet don’t worry. There is no discrimination against individuals who are not vaccinated. Nonetheless, unlike those who can prove their vaccination status, if you’ve not been vaccinated you are likely to be subject to more stringent limitations when travelling abroad. This includes taking PCR/rapid antigen tests before your journey or undergoing a longer period of quarantine/self-isolation on your return.

How will it work on my mobile?

Once you’ve inputted your health information and it has been verified by an issuing body such as a hospital, each user will receive a unique QR code to be stored in a digital wallet or app on your mobile. This information will comprise a digital signature for the health status related to your identity and will be stored in a secure database in each country. This will also make the certificates extremely hard for fraudsters to fake.

It should also be noted that getting your hands on one of these digital certificates will be free of charge across the bloc.

What about using this pass when travelling to non-EU member countries?

The EU has already said it is open to the Digital Green Pass being implemented in EEA countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway), as well as in Switzerland. However, both Norway and Switzerland have already pledged to create their own vaccine certificates that will be compatible with the EU – meaning if you are a citizen of either of these countries, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to use this certification to travel. Instead, you’ll get a version that has been created by the Norwegian or Swiss Government, but this will work for travel across the EU.

Other countries like Iceland and the UK are also exceptions to the Digital Green Pass with Iceland permitting entry to vaccinated EU tourists for several months already and the UK currently undergoing negotiations to carve out an agreement with the rest of the EU. The country is, however, rolling out its own vaccine certificates through its National Health Service, which can be used for entry into sporting events like The UEFA European Football Championship games taking place at Wembley.

Have you started using your Digital Green Pass yet? Let us know in the comments section. And, if you’re interested in travel, why not check some of our other posts here: