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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

Austrian Airlines expands flight connections to Berlin ahead of winter

Austrian Airlines announced on Friday it would launch new weekly flights to Berlin, including a Berlin-Innsbruck route.

Austrian Airlines expands flight connections to Berlin ahead of winter

In the 2023 winter flight schedule, Austrian Airlines (AUA) said it would increase its offers to and from Berlin and include a new Berlin-Innsbruck route with a weekly flight.

From January 28th to February 25th, the company will fly passengers from the German capital to the Tyrolean city on Saturdays, aiming to give winter tourists more connections and travel possibilities. The airline already has routes connecting Innsbruck to Vienna, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Stockholm and Copenhagen.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: The best websites for cross-Europe train travel

In total, Lufthansa Group airlines will fly to Innsbruck up to 48 times a week during the peak ski season, the AUA parent company said in a press release.

“With this seasonal service, we are giving our flight program to Berlin an upgrade. Our winter sports-savvy passengers will enjoy the convenience of a direct connection to Tyrol.

READ ALSO: Train travel in Austria: 6 ways you can save money

“Austrian Airlines and the Lufthansa Group significantly contribute to strengthening tourist traffic in the region with almost 50 weekly flights to Innsbruck,” says Austrian Airlines CCO Michael Trestl.

The company added that the Vienna-Berlin route would also be expanded with an additional flight on Saturdays around the semester break, the company added. This will benefit not only city tourists travelling to Vienna or Berlin but also numerous transfer passengers who travel via Vienna as a convenient hub for their onward flight.

READ MORE: Five European cities you can reach from Austria in less than five hours by train

Winter routes

Austrian Airlines is not the only company offering more rules for the winter season.

The low-cost company Ryanair announced eight new routes would be included in the program of its flight scheduled from Vienna, as The Local reported.

READ ALSO: From inflation to Covid: What to expect from Austria’s winter season

The new routes are Bremen (Germany), Manchester (England), Copenhagen (Denmark), Helsinki (Finland), Genoa and Venice (Italy), Tuzla (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and Sibiu (Romania).

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