All About the So-Called EU “Vaccine Passport” and Its Implication to Latin American Travelers

Those who live and move about in Europe will now travel not with one passport, but with 2 passports. This past week the so-called Green Digital Certificate began to function with which the European Union will allow its citizens to move between countries.

The purpose of the certificate, which was approved in March and came into force on July 1st, is to allow movements within the continental bloc, without the need to submit to restrictions, to anyone who is vaccinated against Covid-19, has proof virus negative or have recently recovered from the disease.

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It is known as the “European vaccination passport” and, in addition to the 27 member countries of the EU, it was also approved in foreign countries but that are part of the European territory such as Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. “We want to help member states to reliably restore freedom of movement,” European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen said when she proposed the measure. However, the vaccine passport proposals had faced opposition in some countries for fear that they would become a discriminatory tool.

In response to this, European Commission officials assured that they want to prevent those citizens who for one reason or another have not been vaccinated from feeling excluded. Some consider a “vaccine passport” discriminatory.

The EU has indicated that this measure is aimed at guaranteeing the movement of citizens and residents within the community territory. However, countries such as Germany and Spain have already made the entry of travelers from third countries more flexible.

We explain how the digital passport works and what consequences it has for Latin American travelers

  1. Key elements of the Green Digital Certificate

The main provisions that were taken into account for the approval of the digital certificate were the following:

• It is available to all EU citizens.
• Confirm vaccination or have tested negative for Covid-19 (in a PCR or lateral flow test) or have recently recovered from infection (in the last 180 days).
• It will be broadcast in digital and paper format.
• Both formats include a QR code to guarantee their authenticity.
• It will only contain essential information, thus protecting personal data.
• It will be printed in the official language or languages ​​of the issuing State and in English.
• It is given free of charge.

Any member state that allows vaccinated travelers to evade restrictions, such as quarantine, must accept certificates from other states within the block under the same conditions.

The European Union has so far approved the application of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, but not the Russian Sputnik V or the Chinese Sinovac and Sinopharm.

But the proposal adds that member states have the option of also accepting vaccination certificates issued in relation to other vaccines authorized by the World Health Organization (WHO).

In this case, Sinovac and Sinopharm, which have been administered in several Latin American countries such as Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Ecuador, were approved for emergency use by the WHO.

However, the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, applied mainly in Argentina and Mexico, has not yet been regulated by the multilateral body. Despite this, countries such as Greece contemplate it within their plan to enter the country.

  1. Who can receive the certificate?

The European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, said at the time the certificate was presented that the document aims to ensure that it is possible to “travel safely and with minimal restrictions this summer”. On its website, the European Commission explains that the certificate must be issued to all EU citizens and their family members, regardless of their nationality.

The certificate also covers foreigners residing in the EU and visitors who have permission to travel to other Member States.

  1. Criticisms

There has long been a rejection of the idea of ​​creating a “vaccine passport”, which many consider discriminatory.

Some argue that only a minority could enjoy unrestricted travel, while others – particularly young people, who are not a priority group for inoculation – will continue to be subjected to strict measures such as mandatory quarantines.

There are also doubts about the results – still incomplete – of the efficacy of vaccines in preventing a vaccinated person from being a carrier or transmitter of the virus. In this sense, France and the Benelux countries are the most against the idea.

In anticipation of the EU announcement, the WHO said it is working to “create a reliable international framework” for travel safety and that vaccines should not be a condition.

The EU ensures that both vaccinated and unvaccinated people will benefit from the green digital certificate because it also endorses those who have been tested for covid-19 or have recovered from the disease.

On the other hand, fearing that the certificate may contain personal data, the European authorities maintain that the information will be limited to the essentials, such as name, date of birth, date of issue and relevant data related to the vaccine, the test or the recuperation.

  1. How does all this affect travelers from Latin America?

The European Union accepted that this is a complicated process, so it leaves the responsibility of each Member State to consolidate the information in the best possible way.

And also each Member State will determine the way in which it allows the entry of non-essential travelers from third countries who meet the minimum requirements. Basically, the one that has been completed 14 days after the application of the complete vaccination.

Thus, the governments of Spain and Germany have opened the doors to non-essential travelers (tourists) who prove that they have received the second dose at least 14 days before their arrival.

Spain is one of the countries that could benefit from the implementation of the certificate.
The government of Spain in its Travel Spain portal says the following:

“From a territory included in the list of countries / risk zones (according to the list in force at the time of travel), the entry of people traveling for tourism will be allowed with a vaccination certificate issued by the competent authorities of the country of origin from of the 14 days after the date of administration of the last dose necessary to complete the vaccination cycle. The admitted vaccines will be those authorized by the European Medicines Agency or the World Health Organization”.

In the German case, the only vaccines that will be accepted are those approved by the European authority: Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Jenssen.

However, a spokesman for the European Union, in conversation with BBC Mundo, clarified that although each country will determine the form of entry into their territories, when it comes to talking about digital Covid certificates for travelers from third countries, we will have to wait.
“They must wait for a decision of ‘equivalence’: when the Commission is convinced that a third country issues certificates in accordance with standards and systems interoperable with the EU system, it may adopt a decision by virtue of which said certificates of third countries would be accepted”, he noted.

This means, according to the EU, that certificates from countries outside the continent could conform to the same conditions as digital Covid19 documents from the EU. He also recommended that, in the current pandemic conditions, the information held by the embassies and consulates of European countries in Latin America be consulted before going on a tourist trip.

Meanwhile, in the case of European citizens who reside in Latin American countries and who were vaccinated there, the spokesperson noted that they will be able to request the digital certificate. “EU citizens vaccinated in a non-EU country can request the EU COVID Digital Certificate from the Member State of their nationality or residence”, the spokesperson explained to BBC Mundo.

“The EU COVID Digital Certificate will be issued if there is a reliable proof of vaccination and if the structure of the health system allows it. For more information, citizens can go to the Member State of nationality or residence”, he added.

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