GREECE, GERMANY AND five other European Union nations have introduced a Covid-19 passport system for travellers, a month ahead of the 1 July rollout of the programme across the EU.
The other countries starting early were Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Croatia and Poland, according to the European Commission.
Greece, which depends heavily on tourism, has been pressing for the commonly recognised certificate that uses a QR code with advanced security features.
The certificates are being issued to people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, those who have already contracted the virus and developed antibodies, and those who have received a negative PCR test result within the past 72 hours.
The documents will have both digital and paper forms. They will be free of charge, distributed in the national language plus English and be valid in all EU countries.
The scheme will be rolled out in Ireland from 19 July, the Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced last Friday.
Martin said he understands the “pent up desire” to travel overseas or welcome family and friends from abroad.
EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said: “EU citizens are looking forward to travelling again, and they want to do so safely. Having an EU certificate is a crucial step on the way.”
European Parliament votes to introduce EU Covid-19 passports – with some changes
Greece’s digital governance minister, Kyriakos Pierrakakis, said easier travel will open up within the EU as nations adopt the new verification standard.
“What will happen is that countries will stop issuing certificates using their own convention and adopt the common convention,” Pierrakakis told Skai television.
“That will simplify things considerably, because you can imagine the number of bilateral agreements that would otherwise need to be worked out.”
Kyriakides said in the next few weeks, all EU nations need to “fully finalise their national systems to issue, store and verify certificates, so the system is functioning in time for the holiday season”.
Countries will be allowed to add extra vaccines to their individual entry list, including those that have not been formally approved for use across the EU.
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The European Commission believes that people who are vaccinated should no longer have to be tested or put into quarantines, regardless of where they are travelling to or from, starting 14 days after receiving their second jab.
Member countries, however, have not yet endorsed that recommendation.