Europe’s Digital COVID-19 Travel Certificate System Goes Live

On Thursday, July 1st, the EU Digital COVID Certificate Regulation came into effect. This allows EU citizens and residents the ability to have their Digital COVID Certificates issued and verified across the EU. More than 200 million certificates have already been generated across the member states of the European Union.

Europe’s Digital COVID-19 Travel Certificate System Goes Live
While all Europeans have the right to free movement, even without the certificate, the new system will facilitate travel and exempt holders from restrictions, including quarantine. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

“In March, we promised to have an EU-wide system to facilitate free and safe travel within the EU by the summer holidays. Now we can confirm that the EU Digital COVID Certificate system is up and running.” -Ursula von der Leyen, President, European Commission

Facilitating safe and free movement

The introduction of the EU’s digital certificate system is the final step in ensuring free movement across the region when it comes to dealing with COVID-19. Indeed, 21 Member States, as well as Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein, had already started to issue certificates ahead of July 1st. With so many countries making their own advances on this issue, only five EU countries started Thursday.

“The aim of the EU Digital COVID Certificate is to facilitate safe and free movement in the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic. All Europeans have the right to free movement, also without the certificate, but the certificate will facilitate travel, helping to exempt holders from restrictions such as quarantine.” -European Commission

Under the new rules, which came into effect Thursday, EU Member States must “refrain from imposing additional travel restrictions on holders of an EU Digital COVID Certificate.” It is noted, however, that an exception can be made if the restrictions are “necessary and proportionate to safeguard public health.”

Europe’s Digital COVID-19 Travel Certificate System Goes Live
The EU Digital COVID Certificate is a smartphone-based application. Photo: European Commission

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Digital certificate details

The EU Digital COVID Certificate will feature the following aspects:

  • Coverage of COVID-19 vaccination, test, and recovery status; Information stored includes:
    • For a vaccination certificate: vaccine type and manufacturer, number of doses received, date of vaccination;
    • For a test certificate: type of test, date and time of test, place, and result;
    • For a recovery certificate: date of the positive test result, the validity period.
  • Made free of charge and available in all EU languages;
  • Also made available in a paper-based format;
  • Built with security in mind, with the inclusion of a digitally signed QR code;

It is also stated to be “accessible for everyone” and includes a wide range of travelers:

  • All EU citizens and their family members,
  • Non-EU nationals legally staying or residing in the Member States and who have the right to travel to other Member States
Europe’s Digital COVID-19 Travel Certificate System Goes Live
Authenticity will be verified using a QR code within the app. Photo: European Commission

Obtaining this certificate will be done through national authorities. The EU says that, for example, the certificate could be issued by test centers or health authorities, or directly via an eHealth portal. Information on how to get the certificate will be provided by the national health authorities.

Compatibility with non-EU systems in the works

The European Commission says that it is working to ensure that its certificates are compatible with systems in countries outside the EU. However, this has not been fully achieved yet and may remain an aspiration for some time.

The proposal is open to global initiatives and accounts for the ongoing efforts of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to establish specifications for using digital technologies for documenting vaccination status.

The Commission suggests that non-EU countries should “be encouraged to recognize the EU Digital COVID Certificate when lifting restrictions on non-essential travel,” and should “serve as an example for other certificates currently being developed around the world.”

Have you used received your digital certificate yet? Share your experience by leaving a comment.