The EU digital COVID certificate is on the way
On 9th June 2021, the European Parliament finally approved the proposal for a Regulation for the introduction of the European Union (EU)’s COVID digital certificate. This aims to promoting the exercise of the right of free movement within the EU during the pandemic.
The new rules, which will remain in force for one year, will allow citizens of the EU and third-country nationals residing legally in the EU to receive a certificate recognized and accepted in all EU Member States.
The certificate can be issued to EU citizens regardless of their nationality from 1st July and will be valid in all Member States. It can also be used in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland.
The certificates, in digital or paper format and equipped with a QR code, will be interoperable and verifiable throughout the EU thanks to a common digital infrastructure that will prevent the circulation of fakes, while the protection of personal data will be guaranteed by a decentralized verification system. Except in case of a new worsening of the pandemic, which will make further public health safeguards necessary, Member States will not be able to impose travel restrictions (testing, quarantine or self-isolation) on the holders of COVID digital certificates.
Let’s have a look in details.
What is the EU digital COVID certificate?
The EU digital COVID certificate is a digital proof that a person:
- has been vaccinated against COVID-19,
- has got a negative test result, or
- has recovered from the virus.
Main features of the certificate:
- will be issued in digital and / or paper format,
- will be equipped with a QR code,
- will be released free of charge,
- will be written in the national language and in English,
- will be secure and protected,
- will be valid in all EU countries.
How do you get the certificate?
The national authorities are responsible for issuing the certificate, which can be issued by test centres, by the health authorities, or directly through a portal, called eHealth.
The digital version can be saved on a mobile device and those who wish can also request a paper version. Both versions will have a QR code containing essential information and a digital signature to guarantee the authenticity of the certificate.
Member States have agreed on a common model that can be used for both electronic and paper versions to facilitate their recognition.
How will the certificate contribute to free movement?
The certificate will be accepted in all EU Member States and will help ensuring that current free movement restrictions can be lifted in a coordinated way.
When travelling, the holder of the certificate should, in principle, be exempted from restrictions on free movement – that is, Member States will have to refrain from imposing further travel restrictions on holders of a certificate, unless they are necessary and proportionate to protect public health.
In this case – for example in response to new variants giving rise to concern – a Member State that decide to apply movement rescrictions must inform the European Commission and all other Member States and justify such decision.
How will the certificate work?
The EU digital COVID certificate contains a QR code with a digital signature to prevent falsification: when the certificate is checked, the QR code is scanned, and the signature verified.
Any organization authorized to issue COVID certificates (such as hospitals, test centres or health authorities) has its own digital signature key. All signature keys are stored in a secure database in each Member State.
The European Commission has created a gateway to ensure that all certificate signatures can be verified across the EU. The personal data of the certificate holder will not go through the gateway as this is not necessary to verify the digital signature. The Commission also helped Member States to develop national software and apps for issuing, archiving and verifying certificates, and supported them in the tests required to join the gateway.
Will citizens who are not yet vaccinated be able to travel to another EU country?
Yes, the certificate is intended to facilitate free movement within the EU. It will not be a prerequisite for free movement, which is a fundamental right in the EU. As such, the certificate will also provide proof of test results, which are often required under existing health restrictions. It offers Member States the opportunity to adapt existing restrictions for public health reasons. Does it matter which vaccine citizens have received?
Vaccination certificates will be issued to a person vaccinated with any COVID-19 vaccine.
Regarding the exemption from restrictions on free movement, Member States will have to accept vaccination certificates for vaccines that have been authorized for marketing in the EU. Member States may decide to extend this possibility also to EU travellers who have received another vaccine.
It is up to the Member States to decide whether to accept a vaccination certificate after a dose or after the completion of the full vaccination course.
What data is included in the certificate? Is my data secured?
The COVID certificate contains key information such as name and surname, date of birth, date of issue, relevant vaccine / test / recovery information, and unique identifier. This data remains on the certificate and is not stored or retained when a certificate is verified in another Member State.
The certificates will include only a limited set of necessary information, which cannot be retained by the countries visited. For verification purposes, only the validity and authenticity of the certificate are checked, ascertaining by whom it was issued and signed. All health data are stored by the Member State that issued the certificate.
If you have any questions and would like to know more, write to us at email@example.com. We will be happy to clarify any of your doubts.
Avv. Federica Loreti
Fiat Lux Legal