Photo: EUROPEAN UNION/EP

EU approves launch of Covid ‘passport’ as Portugal starts testing it next week

The European Parliament approved on Wednesday the launch of the European Union’s Digital Covid Certificate, a passport-like document that will allow holders to travel freely between member states.

Several countries are already adopting the scheme while Portugal is due to start testing it next week before it officially launches on July 1, Prime Minister António Costa said on Wednesday.

“I’m very happy,” Costa told reporters in Funchal, Madeira. “It is with great pleasure that I will be in Brussels on Monday morning to sign the regulations of this certificate which will surely help circulation within the European Union but also solve many of the issues involved with accessing areas with the most difficulties.”

However, as the PM admitted when asked whether the certificate would help “save the summer”, this is not a cure-all.

“We have to be prudent about the summer. It is obvious that tourism activity will not develop extraordinarily before 2022 because people are still afraid, which is understandable, and because the measures that member states apply are still changing frequently, which makes planning very difficult (for holidaymakers),” he said.

Costa believes that the certificate will make travelling much easier, nonetheless, and is hopeful that it will be extended outside of the EU to the UK, which would make “the circulation of Brits, who currently have very few options to travel to, much easier”.

But as he pointed out, “there are no magical measures. The pandemic isn’t over yet.”

What is the EU Digital Covid Certificate?
In a nutshell, the certificate will be attributed to people who have been vaccinated, who received a negative Covid-19 test result or who have had Covid-19 and recovered.

It will be open to EU citizens and their families and legal residents and will be valid in all EU member states, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Switzerland is also said to likely join the scheme.

The EU has said that it is “working to make sure that the certificates can be compatible with systems in other countries” for holders travelling outside the bloc. The UK is also reported to have been in negotiations.

More than one million people had already signed up by Tuesday, according to the European Commission. However, how it will be obtainable in Portugal has to be explained.

Members of European Parliament (MEPs) voted on the certificate on Tuesday, with the results being announced on Wednesday morning. The vote was a landslide, with 546 MEPs voting in favour, 93 against and 51 abstentions.