COVID-19 Digital Green Certificates: What You Need To Know
Millions across the European Union and all those wishing to travel again to Europe have been waiting for the European Commission’s “summer plan” for travel. The Digital Green Certificates aim to allow European travel to resume by encoding the vaccine/test/recovery information of each person on a QR code. The decision on whether to adopt the plan is left to EU member states. Photo Credit: Freepik / Illustrative Photo.
Czech Rep., Mar 18 (BD) – The European Union has presented a proposal for the much-debated COVID-19 Digital Green Certificates, which would include a QR code providing digital evidence that citizens have either been vaccinated against COVID-19, obtained a recent negative test result, or recovered from COVID-19. Stored either on a mobile device or in paper format, the certificates could ease travel even for those who have not yet been vaccinated, or who do not want to be.
The certificates will not be a pre-condition for travel, but an easier way to present a negative COVID-19 test result, currently required by health measures in almost all EU countries. The certificate recognizes vaccines which have been authorized by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), which currently includes those from BioNTech and Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Janssen Pharmaceutica NV. EU states may decide to extend this to EU citizens that have received another vaccine. It is planned that by summer, all EU member states will have integrated the scheme into their national health systems.
The certificate will be free of charge and valid in all EU countries, available in English and the holder’s national language. National authorities are responsible for issuing the certificates. They could be issued by hospitals, test centers, or health authorities. The Digital Green Certificate includes basic information including name, date of birth, date of issuance, data about vaccine/test/recovery, and a unique identifier. The QR code includes a digital signature that prevents misinformation; as the QR code is scanned, the certificate will be verified by officials. The issuers of the signature will have their own digital signature key, which will be stored in a secure database of each EU member state. Regarding data security, the EU website writes that: “The European Commission will build a gateway. Through this gateway, all certificate signatures can be verified across the EU. The personal data encoded in the certificate does not pass through the gateway, as this is not necessary to verify the digital signature. The Commission will also help Member States to develop software that authorities can use to check the QR codes.”
The decision rests with Member States
The certificate is intended to ease travel between EU countries, and will help ensure that restrictions can be lifted in a coordinated way. When travelling, all EU citizens or third-country nationals lawfully visiting or residing in the EU, who hold a Digital Green Certificate, should be exempt from restrictions on movement in the same way as residents of that country. If a Member State extends the requirement to quarantine or present a test to holders of a Digital Green Certificate, it must inform the European Commission and other Member States and justify this decision.
“We are coming up with a proposal and it will be up to Member States to discuss how they respond to it. I think that all states should recognize vaccination with EMA-approved substances. For the others it is up to them to consider it,” said the European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders. According to the Czech Foreign Affairs Minister Tomáš Petříček, the Czech Republic has not yet decided whether the certificate will be utilized for the Czech citizens and residents. “It is for further negotiations, mainly with the Ministries of the Interior and Health. Personally, however, I would prefer us to recognize vaccines that are registered with the EMA,” said Petříček.