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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Explained: What are Digital Green Certificates, proposed by the European Commission?

On March 17, 2021, the European Commission proposed to create a Digital Green Certificate to facilitate the safe and free movement of citizens within the European Union (EU) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: March 19, 2021 8:22:14 am
People arrive to receive their COVID-19 vaccine, at a new vaccination site, at Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey, London. (AP Photo)

On March 17, 2021, the European Commission proposed to create a Digital Green Certificate to facilitate the safe and free movement of citizens within the European Union (EU) amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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So, what exactly is the Digital Green Certificate?

A Digital Green Certificate is proof that a person has either been vaccinated against COVID-19, has received a negative test result or has recovered from COVID-19. The key features of the certificate are that it will be in digital or paper format complete with a QR code and will be free of charge.

The certificate can be issued by authorities, including hospitals, testing centres and health authorities. Once the proposal for digital certificates is finalised, it will be accepted in all EU countries and will help to ensure that the restrictions imposed in different areas within the EU can be lifted in a coordinated manner.

All EU citizens or third-country nationals who are legally staying in the EU will be able to use these digital certificates and thereby will be exempted from free movement restrictions. In case an EU member country requires a person to quarantine or undergo a test, it will have to notify the Commission and all other member states justifying its decision.

Significantly, the brand or kind of anti-COVID vaccine received does not matter for the certificate to be issued. “When it comes to waiving free movement restrictions, Member States will have to accept vaccination certificates for vaccines which received EU marketing authorisation,” the Commission has said.

The certificates are expected to be rolled out by the summer, after countries have had the time to set up the required digital infrastructure.

What is the need for such a document?

In the EU and across the world, the tourism industry has been severely impacted due to the spread of the disease. Many countries have, therefore, been contemplating digital certificates or passports that will be proof that a person has been vaccinated or has recovered from COVID-19.

In February, Israel became the first country to issue certificates called “vaccine passports” that will allow vaccinated individuals to use some facilities and attend events. Last month, Denmark also said that it was in the process of rolling out digital passports that would act as proof for those individuals who have been vaccinated.

Even so, as early as May 2020, countries such as Chile had proposed “release certificates” meant for those who had recovered from COVID-19. But the World Health Organisation (WHO) had advised against using such certificates because of lack of evidence that a person infected with Covid-19 could not get the infection again.

However, it is now known that re-infection in case of COVID-19 is rare. Research published in the journal Lancet recently points out that most people who have had COVID-19 are protected from re-infection for at least a period of six months. However, the study says that elderly patients are more prone to reinfections. This study found that only about 0.65 percent of the people in the study returned a positive RT-PCR test twice.

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