19th April 2021
With the EU moving quickly to introduce its vaccine passport amid the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines across its member states in a bid to safeguard the health of its citizens while curbing the spread of the virus, we take an in-depth look at vaccine passports and proof of vaccination. Importantly, we examine how Coronavirus vaccines will be a huge step forward in the fight against the pandemic and will enable international contractors to travel more freely across the EU’s borders.
First mentioned back in March 2021, the proposal of a digital green certificate is being accelerated by the European Commission who intends to introduce its COVID status certification system. The idea behind the initiative is to allow those holding the vaccine passport – people who have had a COVID vaccination, undergone COVID tests and are able to provide negative test results or have recovered from the virus – to travel freely across all EU member states.
So what details will be shown on the vaccine passport? As well as all the personal details you would expect in an official document, the certificate will contain all important information relating to COVID vaccinations. This includes number of doses, dates and the name of the vaccine and manufacturer for those who have received a vaccine, locations and results for those who have had a COVID-19 test, plus results and validity information for those who have recovered from the virus.
While the Commission advises countries to accept vaccines that have received EU approval, the decision will be up to the individual member state to decide as to how long the validity of the certificate will last. Free of charge for all EU citizens, the vaccine passports will also be available to non-EU citizens residing in member states and can also be requested by those travelling to the EU.
Those who may have been expecting it to be portable document like a normal passport will be disappointed as the vaccine passport will only be available in digital format for smartphone use and can be printed. To avoid any falsification and to increase security, each passport will also have a unique QR or identifier code that will verify the signature of each person when scanned.
The latest updates on EU travel restrictions and border controls
While the vaccine passports will simplify travel for some in the future, country-specific restrictions remain in place and contractors should check the latest updates before planning to travel. As a case in point, following the Chief Epidemiologist’s recommendations, it has been revealed that Iceland will require individuals to quarantine and self-isolate in a facility free of charge if their home quarantine requirements are not met. A government statement said that “everyone arriving at the country shall be tested at the borders as before, quarantine for five days and undergo a second test upon finishing. People are allowed to quarantine at home if certain requirements are fulfilled”.
Children born in 2005 or later will be tested upon reaching the country’s border. If accompanied by a person who has to follow quarantine regulations, they too will also have to self-isolate but will be able to leave if the second test results are negative. The government is concerned that even if the accompanying adult has been vaccinated or has had the virus, there is still a possibility that the person can still be a carrier and therefore pass on the virus. Although the Nordic island nation has allowed passengers in since 6th April from outside the Schengen Zone, the government has been clear that they cannot use Iceland as a gateway to other EU states.
Following an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, Slovenia is tightening its border controls and has added to its high risk list of countries that include its neighbours. While any person testing positive or showing symptoms will not be allowed to enter the destination, the country’s Ministry of the Interior clarified that “If Slovenian citizens or foreign nationals obtaining a permanent or temporary address in Slovenia have been ordered to quarantine in another state, because they were exposed to a COVID-19 infected person, and wish to quarantine in Slovenia, they will be permitted to enter Slovenia”.
As a key participant in the World Tourism Organisation (WTO), Greece has perhaps unsurprisingly introduced a four point plan to help kickstart tourism. The proposals, which cover such areas such as cross-border travel, social distancing and the safety of passengers, were approved by the World Crisis Management Committee of the WTO. One of the key measures is to provide financial support to those affected by the pandemic. As tourism minister Haris Theoharis says, “It is equally important to increase access to financial instruments, such as subsidised loans, for those tourism businesses that are proposing job creation”. As of 14th May, Greece will open its borders to those who have had their COVID-19 vaccines or can provide a negative test result.
Contractor COVID vaccine passports – the key to free movement
Although the situation is far from perfect across the EU, the rollout of COVID vaccinations and the introduction of a digital vaccine passport will have a huge impact on the movement of people, stimulating economic growth as well as providing a welcome boost to the tourism industry. And for international contractors, this will mean having access to more job opportunities and being able to work across the EU’s 27 member states.
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