The EU digital Covid certificate: A boon or a bane?

July 02, 2021 1:50 PM

A lot of travellers did not anticipate that this vaccine would not be given a complete green signal under the digital COVID -19 certificate programmes launched on the 1st of July 2021.

airportThe certificate will be issued to citizens of the EU by national authorities such as test centres health authorities or directly via an E-health portal. (Representational image: Reuters)

By Nandika Handa, 

There has been much conjecture in the past few days by those wishing to travel to the EU over the digital COVID certificate. For some it has been a reason for celebration as they anticipate it will open up travel that seemed tough or almost impossible to undertake with ease or semblance due to the Pandemic.

For others, particularly those who have received their vaccinations in India such as Covishield, it has led to a slew of questions. A lot of travellers did not anticipate that this vaccine would not be given a complete green signal under the digital COVID -19 certificate programmes launched on the 1st of July 2021.

It has also left people questioning “What is this certificate, why is it so important to get if we want to travel to the EU, what purpose does it serve?” A lot are questioning why a simple COVID -19 negative test result won’t suffice and get them through their travel hassle free.

The digital certificate is important as it aims at easing out movement in a safer manner during the pandemic. It will provide proof and key information such as , if an individual has been vaccinated against COVID, received a negative test result or recovered from the virus. Ideally, people who have this should not have to get additional tests or quarantine after they enter the EU. The certificate can be printed or displayed on a digital device for maximum ease. The certificate has a QR code and digital signature, when it is checked both these are verified. Issuing bodies in every country such as hospitals, test centres or health authorities have their own signature key. All certificate signatures can be verified across the EU through a gateway built by the European commission and data remains secure.

The certificate will be issued to citizens of the EU by national authorities such as test centres health authorities or directly via an E-health portal.

The only recognized vaccinations are those which have been authorized in the EU .These are commonly known under the following names – Moderna is also known as Spikevax, Janssen (sometimes referred to as the Johnson & Johnson vaccine) is the same as in the UK, Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is sometimes known as Comirnaty, Oxford-AstraZeneca (AZ) is also known as Vaxzevria.

The AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in India known as Covishield has not been authorised in the EU for use. This brings about a problem for those who have been vaccinated in India. They will have to wait until this particular vaccine has been approved. This has not only left a lot of people distraught but also shattered their hopes and plans to travel to the EU shortly. A lot of people feel utterly helpless as they have no choice but to take the vaccines that are available to them in India in order to protect themselves.

However, the situation does not warrant complete doom and gloom – The Indian government has urged the EU countries to accept travellers who carry a vaccination certificate issued through their CoWIN portal. The Serum Institute of India has also said that it hopes to resolve the matter soon.

There is also a sense of optimism as some EU/ Schengen countries such as Estonia, Spain, Iceland, Slovenia, Greece, Ireland, Germany, and Austria have confirmed accepting the Covishield vaccine.

However, there are many who wish to travel to other EU countries that have not yet accepted the vaccine. They have not been able to see loved ones or carry out important plans for more than a year and feel defeated and ask an all-encompassing question “When can we expect some good news regarding this matter?” For now the answer is – the days to come might bring that news, but for those asking “precisely when?” this can’t be quantified as yet. Unfortunately this is a situation where not all answers are clear and present for many wishing to travel – and those that are available are marred by the pandemic. However, hopefully, we can all take solace in the simple but powerful quote “What is coming is better than what is gone.”

(The author is an Independent writer. She specialises in immigration and globalisation. She is the Executive Director and Head of Business Development of an Investment immigration firm. And is currently based between Bengaluru and Toronto. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. She can be reached at: nandika_h@yahoo.com)

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