The digital health certificate European Union leaders agreed to implement earlier this year is now up and running in seven countries.
Back in March, the European Commission proposed that member nations issue digital health certificates to EU residents who have been vaccinated for COVID-19, tested negative for the virus, or had recovered, which would allow them to travel freely across the 27-nation bloc.
On June 1, the commission announced that the EU Digital COVID Certificate, as it’s officially called, went live. While the goal is to have all member states implement the technology and make it available to citizens and residents by July 1, seven European countries have already connected to the platform in advance of the wider launch and have started issuing the first certificates. They are:
Once implemented, the EU Digital COVID Certificate is free and accessible to all—it’s available both in a digital and paper format, offering a secure and verified QR code to those who can provide proof of vaccination, recovery from COVID-19, or a negative COVID-19 test result.
Twenty-two European countries have already tested the tech and additional countries will start issuing the digital health certificates in the coming days and weeks, according to the European Commission. A regularly updated list of the countries that are issuing the certificates as well as additional information about how the certificates work are available on the EU Digital COVID Certificate website.
After July 1, there will be a six-week “phasing-in period” for the issuance of certificates for those European countries that need more time to implement the technology.
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“It is important that during the coming weeks, all member states fully finalize their national systems to issue, store and verify certificates, so the system is functioning in time for the holiday season,” stated Stella Kyriakides, European commissioner for health and food safety. “EU citizens are looking forward to traveling again, and they want to do so safely. Having an EU certificate is a crucial step on the way.”
So, how does it work? The European Union is using a cloud-based system established by tech providers T-Systems and SAP and hosted at the European Commission’s data center in Luxembourg. It allows those on the platform to verify the digital information contained in the certificates’ QR codes while protecting personal data. The QR codes and the information they contain will be accessible through apps established by each individual country.
While the digital health certificates will facilitate travel within Europe, there has been very little information provided on how and whether they would facilitate travel from outside of Europe as they are designed to work in countries that are tapped into the same network, which right now is just countries in Europe.
Even as Europe’s leaders have agreed to plans to allow vaccinated Americans to enter Europe sometime in June, they have not yet said what kind of vaccine documentation or verification will be required for entry and whether or not it will be a digital document or if a paper certificate will suffice.
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The establishment of the EU Digital COVID Certificate, essentially a vaccine or health passport, stands in stark contrast to the approach in the United States, where the Biden administration has acknowledged that there’s mounting demand for some form of secure documentation that allows citizens to provide proof of their vaccination status—but it has also said the federal government won’t be the one to provide it.
With no government-issued digital health passports stateside, vaccinated U.S. citizens have just their paper CDC-issued vaccination certificate to offer as proof of vaccination as well as a patchwork of digital COVID passports that have been developed by the private sector. These include the IBM Digital Health Pass, the CommonPass, and the International Air Transport Association’s IATA Travel Pass, among others. But none of these are being widely used yet.