Sunnier times ahead with the Digital green certificate

By Godfrey Lydon

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As the vaccine rollout gathers pace in Ireland and across the European Union, giving protection from Covid-19 to more and more people, the calls to fully reopen all sectors of the economy grow louder and louder. The international travel sector has been in almost complete lockdown for months but there is hope on the horizon and not just because of the improving health situation.

The Digital Green Certificate is due to be launched across the EU in late June. But what is this and how does it help to restart travel?

What is the Digital Green Certificate?

The Digital Green Certificate aims to facilitate the resumption of international travel within the EU by providing proof to authorities that a person has been vaccinated against Covid-19. Where the person hasn’t been vaccinated yet, it will also provide proof that they have received a negative test result or have antibodies and have recovered from Covid-19.

Why’s it being launched?

Since the pandemic began, there has been no unified EU approach to travel within the bloc. Different countries set up their own rules about non-essential international travel and restricted entry to citizens from many other EU countries. While this was done with the understandable aim of protecting public health, it led to much confusion for EU citizens and was contrary to one of the founding principles of the EU which is the free movement of peoples. It also led to a huge crisis for the travel industry that has been brought to a standstill.

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The Vaccine Rollout

The vaccination rollout has really gained ground across the EU in May. According to the website, one third of EU citizens or 142 million people have received one dose of a vaccine (May-17 2021). And with supplies of vaccines increasing in the weeks ahead, the rollout will accelerate, protecting millions of people from Covid-19. There is strong evidence emerging of reduced transmission from vaccinated people and protection from variants, so there’s now real hope of an end in sight and the opportunity to reopen borders safely. With the launch of the Digital Green Certificate, this can be done in a uniform way across the EU.

How Does it Work?

The Irish government has commissioned the development of a national digital health app or ‘vaccine passport’ for use on a smartphone. This is due to be ready in late June 2021 in line with the EU wide launch of the certificate. Users will download the app and upload their digital health credentials to the app, which will be supplied by the heath authorities. At the same time, the EU is building the digital infrastructure to link all countries together to the system and each country’s app will be compatible with this so there is reciprocal acceptance of each country’s passport apps across the region. The app will be compatible with both iOS and Android operating systems. The certificate will also be issued in paper format.

How Do I Use It?

The digital version can be shown on a smartphone and will function the same way as an air travel boarding pass or a bank card that sits inside a wallet on a smartphone. The certificate contains a QR code with your key data and digital signature to confirm authenticity. When the certificate is checked at the airport, the QR code is scanned to verify the digital signature. This produces a green checkmark which is the ‘ok to travel’ or a red ‘x’ which means the traveller does not meet the health criteria required to travel.

While every individual will receive one specific certificate, there will be three distinct colour-coded certificates available to show whether a person has been vaccinated, received a negative test result or whether they have recovered from Covid-19.

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What information will the certificate contain?

It will include only the minimum necessary information such as name, date of birth, the country it was issued in, the unique identifier for the person named on the certificate and the coronavirus data which will include which vaccine was administered or which test was conducted.

When can I use it to travel?

The government will announce more details of when Irish holiday makers can use the certificate on Friday 28th May as part of the pathway for lifting international travel restrictions.

A Government Advisory is currently in operation against all non-essential international travel and there is a legal requirement for all passengers arriving into Ireland to complete a 14 day quarantine. See the dfa website for more info.

Once the Digital Green Certificate is launched, it is available for use once you are fully vaccinated which is 14 days after receiving the final dose of the vaccine as required. The vaccine type must be one approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

The Future’s Looking Sunnier!

For the first time is fifteen months, there is real optimism that we are finally seeing an end in sight to the pandemic in Europe. It is hoped that with the vaccine rollout and the launch of the Digital Green Certificate, the government’s travel advisory against non-essential travel will soon be lifted for all EU countries, and that we can travel again quarantine-free across Europe for sun holidays, city breaks and more.

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