THE EU has given the go ahead to a vaccine passport scheme which will be available across the bloc by the end of June.
Travellers declared free of Covid-19 will be issued with “Digital Green Certificates” which will allow them to travel throughout the European Union without the need to produce a negative PCR test or undergo quarantine.
“When travelling, every EU citizen or third-country national legally staying or residing in the EU, who holds a Digital Green Certificate, should be exempted from free movement restrictions in the same way as citizens from the visited Member State,” the commission states on its website.
Alfredo Gonzalez, the general secretary of Digital Health, Information and Innovation at Spain’s Health Ministry gave some clarity over what the scheme involved in a press conference on Thursday.
“It will allow for more people to arrive in a safer manner,” he said and “will facilitate the mobility of people in the European Union, guarantee public health protection and permit social and economic activity to resume free of charge”.
Gonzalez explained that the certificates would be either in a digital or paper format and would include a QR code that contains each traveller’s essential information as well as whether they had been vaccinated or recently recovered from coronavirus.
He explained that a person recovered from Covid-19 will be considered to have immunity during the period after a positive test spanning from the 11th day to the sixth month.
But in terms of the vaccines, it is not yet clear how long inoculations last so the validity for the purposes of the green certificate will have to be assessed in the future.
“This certificate is not a passport, it’s not a travel document, and it’s not a requirement for travel,” he explained adding: “It will respect data protection, safety and privacy.”
Although national authorities will be responsible for issuing certificates it is not yet clear how people will get them; whether they will be issued by health centres, test centres or in another way by regional health authorities.
The vaccination programme is being rolled out differently in each of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions, with health authorities in some regions issuing a certificate to people when they recieve a jab while people in other regions have no personal record of their vaccination, although it will be recorded on their medical records.
The EU commission states that the ‘green certificates’ can be issued and used in all EU Member States to facilitate free movement by all EU citizens and their family members as well as non-EU nationals staying or residing in the Member States and who have the right to travel to other Member States.
This means that non-Spanish citizens who have residency in Spain would also be eligible.
What about travellers from the UK?
The big question for many of our readers is whether the new green certificate will facilitate travel between Spain and Britain.
The simple answer is no, because this is a European Union scheme and thanks to Brexit, Britain is no longer a member of the EU-bloc.
Since Brexit and the end of the transition period on December 31, Brits are now considered “third country nationals” and under current EU wide Covid rules, they are not allowed to travel to the bloc unless they have good reason – which includes work and study purposes but not to take a holiday.
However, Spain has repeatedly said that it wants to come up with bilateral plans that will allow Brits to visit Spain for the purposes of tourism.
British holidaymakers make up the single largest nationality of visitors to Spain in a normal year, with 18 million Britons travelling to Spain during 2019, the year before the pandemic hit.
So Spain is very keen to come up with an agreement that will kick-start much needed tourism from the UK.
Back in March, Spanish tourism minister, Fernando Valdés insisted a bi-lateral plan could be developed with the UK if Brussels fails to strike an EU-wide agreement.
The UK has announced its own ‘green corridor’ plan that could allow foreign travel from as early as mid-May without the need for compulsory quarantine on return but only from those countries considered low risk.
As Spain’s vaccination progress is far behind the UK and its infection rates are once again on the rise, it is as yet unclear whether Spain would make it on the list as a green lighted destination.
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