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Digital green pass, vaccine passport, EUDCC: What is it and who can use it?

The EU's new COVID pass means travel might be opening up for the summer
The EU's new COVID pass means travel might be opening up for the summer   -   Copyright  Brian Wangenheim / Unsplash
By Sarah Palmer

We’ve heard a lot in the past six months about ‘covid passports’ which will facilitate travel for fully vaccinated people. While the plans vary from country to country - as does the names of the documents - here’s a guide to the EU Digital COVID Certificate (EUDCC).

What is the ‘covid passport’ and what is its official name?

Don’t worry if you’re confused - as with most things around travel and COVID-19, the messaging hasn’t been clear or easy to understand

The EU Digital COVID Certificate (EUDCC) - previously called the Digital Green Certificate - aims to help Europeans travel easily between the 27 member states. It will be available in some non-EU countries, too.

It will consist of information about an individual's vaccination status, test results or recovery status from COVID-19.

Presented as a QR code, the person travelling can choose to carry either a digital or paper certificate.

Is the EUDCC different from the vaccine passport or green pass?

It’s a weighted question for a few reasons. Firstly because at the moment, different countries are still using different systems. Israel rolled out the first vaccine passport. Their Green Card gives vaccinated citizens and residents access to places such as gyms, spas and hotels.

Secondly, the term ‘vaccine passport’ implies that only vaccinated people can use it. But the EUDCC can also show COVID-19 test results or recovery status. It broadens the range of people able to go abroad and access certain venues.

The concept of the ‘vaccine passport’ was under scrutiny at the start of the year. The WHO, among others, raised concerns that such a document would create ‘two types of citizen’: the vaccinated and the non-vaccinated. This seems especially unfair to those in the many countries where it is still so difficult to access vaccines.

The EUDCC eliminates this bias. At the moment, it seems like ‘EUDCC’ will be the official name for travel documentation in Europe.

Will I be able to get an EUDCC even if I’m not vaccinated?

Yes. The EUDCC allows three different groups freedom of movement: the vaccinated, those who have tested negative for COVID-19 within the previous day, and those who have had and recovered from the virus.

How can I get the EUDCC?

Your national authority will be in charge of issuing EUDCCs to those who qualify. This will arrive in the form of a digital pass that can be stored on a mobile device - but paper versions can also be requested.

Both versions of the certification use a QR code that stores the information and a digital signature which ensures it’s authentic.

You should check your country's government website for information on how to apply for a EUDCC.

Do I have to pay for a EUDCC?

No, the EUDCC will be free.

Is the EUDCC available now?

Some countries are already using the EUDCC. But it will launch fully, in the countries that have adopted it, on 1st July.

Can I use my certificate to go to the EEA, UK or Switzerland?

The EU has already said it is open to the EUDCC being implemented in EEA countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway), as well as Switzerland.

Both Norway and Switzerland have pledged to create their own vaccine certificates to be compatible with the EU, while Iceland has permitted entry to vaccinated EU tourists for several months already.

Meanwhile, the UK is yet to come to an agreement with the bloc, and is currently rolling out its own vaccine certificates through the National Health Service.

What about the US?

Much of the world's population has been banned from travelling to the US since the early days of the pandemic. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like this will be changing anytime soon.

How long is the certificate valid for?

This will depend on how relevant the certificates are at any given time. For example, when your last vaccine was or when you last took a negative COVID test.

It will also depend on scientific updates and national rules across different countries.

Will we have to use this documentation forever?

Hopefully not. While there are no guarantees at this stage, the EU maintains that the certificates will be around so long as coronavirus is still at global pandemic status. Once WHO announces the end of an emergency, the certificate system should also be ended.

You can find out more about the EUDCC and what it means for the future of travel here.