Seven European Countries Begin Issuing Covid Travel Certificates
A digital Covid certificate system intended to ease travel within the European Union became operational in seven countries on Tuesday — ahead of schedule — offering a preview of what could become a standard for post-pandemic global mobility.
The document, known as a digital green certificate, records whether people have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, recovered from the virus or tested negative within 72 hours. Travelers can move freely if at least one of those three criteria is met.
Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia and Poland made the certificates available to their citizens as of Tuesday and are accepting them for visitors. The European Commission, the bloc’s administrative branch, said the system would be in use for all 27 E.U. countries as of July 1.
The digital green certificate was launched after two months of preparation, a relatively fast turnaround considering that it required coordination among the 27 countries and contains security features to verify the data’s authenticity. Because of concerns about privacy, the system’s data is not retained anywhere, the commission said.
The long-term goal is for all people within the European Union to have the certificates and for visitors from outside the bloc to be able to receive one upon arrival. Providing them to outsiders could be tricky, however, considering that not all countries have been giving people secure vaccination documents.
The European Commission is in talks with the United States about how to verify the vaccination status of American visitors. It has also asked E.U. countries to start waiving testing and quarantine demands for people who are vaccinated or have recently recovered from the coronavirus, and to stop requiring quarantines for people with a negative virus test.
On Tuesday, Britain, which is no longer a member of the union, opened a separate terminal at Heathrow Airport to handle travelers arriving from high-risk “red list” countries. To keep those passengers isolated from other travelers, they are to arrive at Terminal 3, which had been mothballed during the pandemic.
Only British or Irish citizens are allowed to enter from red-list countries, and they must test negative before flying and quarantine afterward. Forty-three nations are on Britain’s red list, nearly all in South America, Africa, the Middle East or South Asia.
So-called vaccine passports have been politically fraught in the United States. States like Alabama, Arizona, Florida and Georgia have banned the use of vaccine passports.
New York State’s Excelsior Pass is the first government-issued vaccine passport in the United States. Only about 1.1 million Excelsior passes have been downloaded onto phones and computers, a small fraction of the 8.9 million New Yorkers who have been fully vaccinated.
Although major sports venues and a growing number of smaller New York businesses are embracing the Excelsior Pass, most businesses are not requiring proof of vaccination to enter.
Many U.S. businesses are also declining to force their workers to get vaccinated. The federal agency that enforces workplace discrimination law issued guidance Friday that reiterated companies can require employees who work on-site to get vaccinated.
A long list of legal considerations might be putting companies off from mandating the shots, executives, lawyers and consultants say. Vaccine mandates must abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said. That means companies must accommodate employees with health concerns like allergies and keep that information confidential.