UK not included in EU’s proposal for Digital Green Certificates to return to travel

Mar 17, 2021

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On Wednesday, the European Commission (EC) presented a legal proposition on a version of vaccine passports for Europe. Called the Digital Green Certificate, it has been designed to provide proof for a person that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19, have received a negative test result or recovered from COVID-19.

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The Digital Green Certificate (DGC), which will be available for free in digital (with QR code) or paper format, will allow citizens of EU Member States to be able to move freely around their own country, as well as travel abroad to other countries within the EU. The EC has also outlined that this will also include non-EU Member States such as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland but not the United Kingdom.

Related: Travel to Europe is very different: Here are the government’s new regulations

“The Digital Green Certificate offers an EU-wide solution to ensure that EU citizens benefit from a harmonised digital tool to support free movement in the EU,” said VP for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová. “This is a good message in support of recovery. Our key objectives are to offer an easy to use, non-discriminatory and secure tool that fully respects data protection.”

The rollout will mean quarantining and other travel-related restrictions would effectively disappear — hopefully for good. Where countries wish to waive arrival regulations such as testing or quarantine, they will be required to accept those issued by the Digital Green Certificate.

The EC is hoping to find a way to make the Digital Green Certificates — or a version of them — recognised around the world. The EC said that the DGCs will be in effect until the World Health Organization declares the end of the COVID-19 international health emergency.

“And we continue working towards international convergence with other partners,” Jourová said.

The U.K. is working on its own version of a vaccine passport. In time, the U.K.’s version could be accepted by EU Member States.

The next step will require that each of the Member States get ready for the rollout of the certificates, which will include issuance and verification. The EC will help Member States to develop the required software that authorities across the EU will be able to use to verify certificate signatures.

By summer, the EU plans to have a digital infrastructure in place that would be ready to facilitate travel between Member States using the so-called digital green passports.

All that will be left to do at that stage is for each Member State to make changes in their national healthcare systems to bring them in line with the DGCs.

The strict lockdown imposed by the U.K. government in January means that all non-essential travel, both domestic and international, is currently illegal.

As we continue our journey down the roadmap out of lockdown, the possibility of travel gets closer. As of 12 April at the earliest, the strict “stay at home” mandate will be lifted, meaning we’ll be able to travel around the country once again.

As for international travel, the government has set a preliminary date of 17 May for the return of holidays abroad. There is no guarantee that the DGC will have been rolled out by that date — or if it will apply to Britons. In which case, we can hope for a temporary measure to allow us to travel before the arrival of the DGCs — or when the U.K.’s version will be accepted.

Featured photo by Santiago Urquijo/Getty Images.

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