The pandemic has prevented EU citizens from leaving their homes, seeing their families, traveling, and even walking down the street with the feeling of safety. The European Union created the EU Digital COVID Certificate to help facilitate the re-opening of travel through free movement among the 27 member states. This verification tool was released on July 1, 2021, allowing citizens of the EU member states to travel freely, promoting social and economic activity, as well as boosting their tourism industry.
The digital vaccination verification tool is an online resource that provides one of the above: digital proof of a person’s vaccination, a recent negative test result, a recent positive antigen test result, or documentation that they have immunity from testing positive for the virus within the last few weeks. The certificate provides the user’s name, date of birth, and date issued on a QR code issued by their country of residence.
The problem many people have is that there are vaccines that do not qualify. Today, four vaccines qualify for the certificate: Pfizer/Biotech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca — the vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency. The controversial part is the exclusion of Covidshield, a vaccine distributed in Africa that many member nations accept.
There is a great level of leniency in terms of how the member states can create their own protective measures as needed, leading to problems with free movement across the EU. For example, Germany has imposed travel restrictions from Portugal due to their recent surge of new cases of the Delta variant of Covid-19. For privacy reasons, Germany and Austria have yet to give airlines verification devices to scan QR codes, hindering free travel.
The not-so-great news for Ireland, in particular, is that it is one of the countries causing problems with free movement as well. Ireland is the only country that has yet to set up a verification tool for digital vaccination certificates. EU officials say the reason for this is the recent targeting of its national health system by cyberattacks. It may be to protect the government and its citizens, but it is hard to see other countries opening up to travel while it is falling behind.
In terms of boosting tourism, a large source of the EU’s tourism industry is US travelers. While the EU Digital certificate is still not available to travelers from the United States, the good news is that US citizens can still travel to Europe since they have officially been added to the EU’s list of approved countries.
Peltier, Elian. “Digital Vaccination Cards Go into Effect in Europe, with Some Turbulence.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 July 2021, www.nytimes.com/2021/07/01/world/europe/eu-digital-covid-certificates.html.