The Digital Green Certificate as proposed by the European Commission

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The Digital Green Certificate as described in the proposed Regulation shall be used as a proof that its holder had been vaccinated against COVID-19, has received a negative test result or has recovered from COVID-19. The Certificate can be used in all Member states, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland and is expected to enter into force in June 2021.

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, would be eligible to receive them free of charge.

When travelling across the EU each holder of the digital green certificate will have the same rights as citizens of the visited Member State who have been vaccinated, tested or have recovered. Despite what has been just said and having in mind the dynamic situation the Commission left a “loophole” – the proposed Regulation provides right for each and every one of the Member states to provide extra restrictions for certificate holders like mandatory quarantine or negative COVID-19 test for example when arriving from another member state. In such case it must notify the Commission and all other Member States and provide reasons for such measures.

Conditions on issuance of a certificate are:

  1. For recovery – at the earliest of the eleventh day but no later than the 180th day after the first positive COVID-19 result. The acceptable tests that may serve as a proof are the PCR and the rapid antigen test featured in the list established on the basis of the Council Recommendation 2021/C 24/01. The tests must be performed in certified laboratory – tests performed, for example, at home or test for antibodies against COVID-19 will not be enough for the issuance of a digital certificate;
  2. For negative test result – a negative PCR or rapid antigen (featured in the list established on the basis of the Council Recommendation 2021/C 24/01) test result;
  3. For vaccination – the person must have been vaccinated with a vaccine that has been granted with EU-wide marketing authorization (for now the vaccines of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen). Member states may issue or accept vaccination certificates issued for different vaccines that have been granted marketing authorization pursuant to Directive 2001/83/EC or vaccines having received a World Health Organization’s (WHO) Emergency Use Listing.

Another good proposal in the Regulation provides right for the member states to issue a green certificate for the EU nationals and members of their family who received on of the mentioned above vaccines in a third country. The situation is similar with non-EU nationals who is about to travel to the EU – he/she may request a digital certificate of the member state he/she is travelling to. Both, EU-nationals vaccinated outside the EU and non-EU-nationals requesting green certificate, may receive it by providing to the competent authorities of the Member state all necessary information, including reliable proof of vaccination. The Member State would then have to assess if reliable proof has been provided and decide whether to issue a digital green certificate.

Moreover – a third country which comply with international standards and systems which are interoperable with the EU system may issue the digital green certificates for the EU nationals and members of their family. This is conditional – only if the European commission adopts decision on the “adequate level” of the applicable standards in favor of such third country.

About the personal data – the digital certificate contains QR code and unique digital signature of the issuing body determined by the Member state – for example hospital, laboratory, healthcare authority. All digital signatures of the national issuing bodies are to be stored in data base in each Member state.  During the border control the competent authorities process data only necessary to verify the authenticity, integrity and validity of the certificate. This means that personal data concerning the medical condition of the holder will not be processed by the authorities of a Member state different from the authorities of the Member state which issued the certificate – this particular state is also the responsible one for the personal data protection. Moreover, the certificate can be used directly without any further formalities such as legalization procedure.

The certification system should be suspended once the World Health Organization has declared that the public health emergency caused by COVID-19 has ended.

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