European leaders have agreed to push ahead with plans for an EU-wide Digital Green Certificate as “a matter of urgency”.
The certificate will provide digital proof that a person has either been vaccinated, received a negative test result or recovered from COVID-19.
A statement of members of the European Council, issued after yesterday’s EU summit, says: “Legislative and technical work on COVID-19 interoperable and non-discriminatory digital certificates, based on the Commission proposal should be taken forward as a matter of urgency.”
The certificate will be free of charge and made available either via a smartphone app or paper. Both versions will include a QR code containing essential information and a digital seal to make sure the certificate is accurate.
To protect users’ privacy, the certificates will only include a limited set of information that cannot be retained by visited countries. All health data will remain with the member state that issued the certificate.
Each issuing body (e.g. hospitals, test centres and health authorities) would have its own digital signature key stored in a secure database in each country. The validity and authenticity of the certificate would be checked by verifying who issued and signed it.
The digital infrastructure to facilitate authentication of the certificates is planned to be ready by Summer.
WHY IT MATTERS
The Digital Green Certificate is intended to facilitate free movement in the EU and prove the results of COVID-19 testing, which is often required under public health restrictions. It is not intended to be a pre-condition to free movement, which is a fundamental right in the EU.
THE LARGER CONTEXT
Estonia plans to roll out national digital vaccination certificates from April, which citizens can use both for travelling and in everyday life. The country is also working with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to create a ‘smart yellow card’ global vaccine certificate.
Meanwhile, mainland Europe has been hit by a third wave of COVID-19 and roll out of vaccines in EU states has been sluggish. According to latest figures from Our World in Data, 14.84 doses of vaccine have been administered per 100 people in the EU compared with 46.79 in the UK.
The European Commission has proposed a COVID-19 recovery response programme called EU4Health, which aims to invest €5.1bn to build the resilience of health systems.
ON THE RECORD
European Council president, Ursula von der Leyen, said: “COVID-19 gives us the opportunity to take stock of this whole idea of a Digital Green Certificate – something we can work on together and take a common stance on. We’re going to be discussing this intensively over the next few weeks. How can we have something which will help people to continue to move more freely?”