Spain´s struggling tourist sector received a boost yesterday as the President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen announced the latest proposal to allow for a safe reopening of international travel within the block.
At a press conference in Brussels, she announced a proposed “Digital Green Certificate” which will serve as an assurance that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result or recovered from COVID-19. It will be available, free of charge, in digital or paper format. It will include a QR code to ensure security and authenticity of the certificate.
The Digital Green Certificate will comprise of three parts:
- Vaccination certificates, stating brand of the vaccine used, data and place of inoculation and number of doses administered.
- Negative test certificates (either a NAAT/RT-PCR test or a rapid antigen test). Self-tests will be excluded for the time being.
- Medical certificates for people who have recovered from COVID-19 in the last 180 days.
However the Commision made clear that although EU countries are free to administer their own vaccines, only those approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) would be included in the programme.
At present those vaccines are AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson and therefore EU countries that have included other vaccines such as Hungary with the Sputnik V, from Russia, and Shinopharm from China will have some citizens outside of the scheme.
“Where member states accept proof of vaccination to waive certain public health restrictions such as testing or quarantine, they would be required to accept, under the same conditions, vaccination certificates issued under the Digital Green Certificate system,” the Commission said in a statement.
The scheme will cover all EU countries as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
It will be issued to EU citizens, non-EU residents and their family members.
Spain´s tourist sector accounts for around 14% of GDP and had a catastrophic 2020 which it is still reeling from in the first quarter of 2021.
Spain´s largest tourist market is the UK which post-Brexit would be outside the scheme and from where travel is presently banned due to the coronavirus variant in the country.
The proposal, which will need to be approved by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers, is broadly supported by those countries like Spain which are heavily reliant on tourism but others, such as France and Germany have reservations about the scheme.
Some commentators point out that making a link between one of the EU´s core freedoms – being movement – cannot be conditional on further measures.
Last month the World Health Organization (WHO) stated they were wholly against the concept of requiring “proof of COVID-19 vaccination for international travel as a condition for departure or entry” and cited a list of scientific, ethical, legal and technological objections.