The EU approves Covid vaccine passports for holidaymakers


The EU’s travel plan

  • Anyone who has received their final dose of an EU-approved vaccine at least two weeks beforehand can travel. This includes all of the vaccines approved in the UK and the US.
  • Children who have not yet had a vaccine can enter with their parents if they provide a negative test.
  • EU expected to produce a ‘green list’ of countries from which holiday travel is allowed with a negative test or vaccine passport.
  • A low risk country is one with an infection rate of less than 100 Covid cases per 100,000 people.
  • The UK, with 44 cases per 100,000, and the US, with 35 per 100,000, make the cut.
  • People from low risk countries who have not received a vaccine will be able to travel if they provide a negative test. 
  • Until there is a uniform EU digital passport set up, countries should be able to ‘accept certificates from non-EU countries based on national law.’ In the case of the UK, the NHS app is anticipated to be able to provide the requisite level of proof.
  • Without the EU plan, countries are still able to welcome non-EU citizens under their own national rules. Portugal and Greece are among the countries that have already begun welcoming UK tourists without an EU-wide move.

The European Union has approved the beginnings of a vaccine passport system that will allow tourists to visit without needing to test or quarantine, providing they have had their final dose of an EU-approved jab two weeks beforehand.  

Until a uniform EU digital passport has been set up, the legislation says that countries should be able to ‘accept certificates from non-EU countries based on national law.’ In the case of the UK, the NHS app is believed to provide the requisite level of proof. 

Holiday travel is permitted from low risk countries which have an infection rate of less than 100 cases per 100,000 people. 

The UK, with 44 cases per 100,000, and the US, with 35 per 100,000, fall into this category.

People from low risk countries who have not yet had a vaccine will be able to travel to the EU for holiday as long as they provide a negative test. 

The Continent will only accept those who have received an EU-approved vaccine: Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.

All three vaccines used in the UK – Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna – are covered, as are those used in the US – Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.  

However, the EU has said it may extend this to any vaccine approved by the World Health Organisation – which includes China’s Sinopharm jab.

The rules are specifically for holiday travel and do not have any impact on the bloc’s current guidelines on essential travel and for EU citizens.

The plan covers all EU countries except for Ireland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. 

Brussels also says that member states will have an ’emergency brake’ to block travel from countries where ‘variants of concern’ are spreading – even if they fall below the 100 cases per 100,000 people threshold.

The EU has been working on a passport called the Digital Green Certificate which relies on a QR code – a smartphone and machine readable series of black and white squares – that will contain people’s personal vaccine information. 

As well as vaccines, it will also show data on whether the holder has had a Covid-19 test or has recovered from the virus.

Sunbathers relaxing on a beach in Greece. British holidaymakers could soon be jetting to sunny European beaches as Brussels is set to approve vaccine passports later on Wednesday.

Germany is planning to open up its vaccine drive to everyone over the age of 18 in the coming weeks as it attempts to catch up with the UK, which has vaccinated the fastest in Europe

Germany is planning to open up its vaccine drive to everyone over the age of 18 in the coming weeks as it attempts to catch up with the UK, which has vaccinated the fastest in Europe

The certificate contains key information including name, date of birth, date of issuance, relevant information about vaccines or tests, and a unique identifying code.

The Commission is setting up a gateway which member states can use to verify the certificate signatures presented by arrivals.

They will also advise member states on software which they can implement to scan the QR codes. 

The EU says that the verifying member state will not retain any personal data and data encoded in the passport will not pass through the gateway.

It is in talks with the WHO to make sure that the system can be used outside of the EU.

The Commission has vowed that as soon as the WHO declares that the Covid-19 international health emergency has ended it will stop using the passport system. 

A number of countries have already rolled out their own vaccine passport phone apps, including Denmark and Israel. These allow residents to visit bars, restaurants and museums. 

Meanwhile the International Air Transport Association (IATA), has launched its own app, the IATA Travel Pass, which airlines including including Emirates, Etihad and Qantas, are trialling. 

Currently, the British Government rates all European countries as ‘amber’ – requiring quarantine and two PCR tests – except for Portugal and Gibraltar which are on the green list.  

Boris Johnson’s Cabinet were yesterday accused of sowing ‘mass confusion’ as one minister suggested that journeys to amber list countries were OK, only for the PM to later overrule him and warn that such travel was unacceptable.

The British Government’s contradictory messages have left travel bosses desperately seeking clarity as they’ve already taken five million bookings for summer holidays to amber list countries. 

It comes amid a grand reopening in France today as cafe and restaurant terraces welcomed diners for the first time in six months.  

Like in Britain, the French government is gradually easing restrictions to stave off a resurgence of Covid-19 while allowing people to enjoy some ‘joie de vivre.’

As part of this first stage, the 7pm nightly curfew was pushed back to 9pm and museums, theatres and cinemas reopened along with outdoor cafe terraces. 

Parisians having breakfast on the terrace of Le Sancerre Cafe on the Rue des Abbesses in the touristic Montmartre district of Paris as Cafes and Restaurants across France re-open for the first time in over six months

Parisians having breakfast on the terrace of Le Sancerre Cafe on the Rue des Abbesses in the touristic Montmartre district of Paris as Cafes and Restaurants across France re-open for the first time in over six months

Parisians at Cafe de Flore embrace the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions as Cafes and Restaurants across France re-open for the first time in more than six months

Parisians at Cafe de Flore embrace the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions as Cafes and Restaurants across France re-open for the first time in more than six months

President Emmanuel Macron, among the first to take a seat at a cafe terrace, was seen chatting with Prime Minister Jean Castex, who was attending a movie later in the day.

Actress Emmanuel Beart went to a movie theatre opening in the center of Paris where her latest film ‘L’Etreinte’ (‘The Embrace’) was showing – among the scores of movies produced during the shutdown.

France is not the first European country to start getting back a semblance of social and cultural life. Italy, Belgium, Hungary and other nations already have started allowing outdoor dining, while drinking and eating indoors began Monday in Britain’s pubs.  

Droves of Britons have already taken advantage of cheaper airline prices amid the uncertainty and booked travel to places which fall into London’s ‘amber’ category. 

Britain brought in a new traffic light system on Monday, allowing some foreign holidays to resume after months of lockdown.

But Mr Johnson was forced to stress that countries on the amber list were ‘not somewhere where you should be going on holiday’. 

Mr Johnson’s official spokesman, during a briefing with reporters on Tuesday, said holidays and leisure travel should still be restricted to the limited number of countries deemed safe by ministers, such as Portugal, which is the only major viable tourist destination on the quarantine-free green list.

But two Cabinet ministers appeared to offer a different reading of the rules, with Environment Secretary George Eustice telling broadcasters people could go to amber-listed countries as long as they observed quarantine rules on their return.

Millions are taking a punt and have booked holidays to Amber List nations, especially in Europe, despite warnings not to fly out

Millions are taking a punt and have booked holidays to Amber List nations, especially in Europe, despite warnings not to fly out

It is not the first time that the variant has been detected in Germany, but it does come amid increased fears about the virus after it began spreading rapidly in the UK (pictured, areas where the variant is now the dominant strain)

It is not the first time that the variant has been detected in Germany, but it does come amid increased fears about the virus after it began spreading rapidly in the UK (pictured, areas where the variant is now the dominant strain)

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart, speaking after Mr Johnson’s comments on the matter, told Times Radio the public should ask themselves whether a trip to a country on the amber list was ‘essential’, before conceding that ‘some people might think a holiday is essential’.

And despite the presence of a green list comprising 12 countries and territories, health minister Lord Bethell told peers he considered all foreign travel to be ‘dangerous’ and urged Britons to holiday at home this summer.

Education minister Gillian Keegan told Sky News: ‘As with many of these things we have had throughout the pandemic, this has been about relying on the great British public to be sensible and follow the guidance we have put in place and taking their own decisions really.

‘But, no, we wouldn’t advise going on holiday to the amber list countries.’

Mr Johnson could face pressure to clarify the situation when he takes Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

An aviation industry chief said Lord Bethell’s comments would cause ‘confusion’ for families with trips booked.

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said: ‘These comments are simply not correct and will cause real anger amongst the hundreds of thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on international travel, and confusion amongst families who have booked travel under the Government’s own restart policy.’

The criticism came amid reports thousands of people had headed for destinations such as France, Greece, Spain and the United States – none of which are on the green list – with more than 150 flights reported to have departed on Monday when travel rules were relaxed in Britain as part of a further phase of lockdown easing.

Non-essential travel from Northern Ireland to the Common Travel Area – which consists of the UK, Republic of Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man – will be allowed from May 24.



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