Aiming to reopen tourist-starved destinations from Paris to Athens to vacationers eager to open their wallets, while simultaneously retaining some of the power it has gained from imposing COVID-19-related restrictions, the European Union (EU) has introduced a new entry requirement for travelers.
The EU’s Digital Green Certificate is available to travelers in either digital (scannable QR code) or paper form and will show that a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, received a negative test result, or recovered from the coronavirus. Under the scheme, fully vaccinated travelers will be allowed entry into each EU country without the need for a further COVID-19 test or quarantine upon arrival.
Seven EU member states – Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, and Poland – issued their first Digital Green Certificates on June 1. The policy is set to go into effect in all 27 EU countries on July 1.
Italy, where the Milan area in the country’s north was hard hit by the coronavirus in early 2020, has recently dropped its quarantine requirement for Americans on “COVID-tested” flights, as well as for travelers from the EU, Britain, and Israel.
“Italy is prepared to welcome back the world,” Prime Minister Mario Draghi said at a news conference in early May. One of the reasons Italy can open its doors is that it has experienced no COVID re-infection clusters, Johns Hopkins University’s Marty Makary noted in the Wall Street Journal (June 9).
The UK Still in Limbo
Non-EU countries, including Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, will also use the Green Digital Certificate. Estonia, France, and Ireland have adopted their own vaccine passports, which are similar to those elsewhere in Europe. The UK, no longer a member of the EU, has said it will roll out its own vaccine passport, but, at this writing, no date for its introduction has been set. UK residents already have access to a National Health Service (NHS) app, but it applies only to travel within the country.
The NHS app is similar to New York State’s Excelsior Pass, the first of its kind to be introduced in the U.S. It’s been downloaded over one million times, but, as technologyreview.com reported (June 2), that represents just a small portion of the 9 million New Yorkers who have been vaccinated and the vast majority of businesses aren’t using it yet.
Israel, one of the first countries to launch a vaccine passport, has seen new cases of COVID plummet in recent weeks. It scrapped its vaccine passport in early June declaring it was fully open.
Europe and the U.S.: A Study in Contrasts
Unlike in the U.S., where resistance to vaccine passports has resulted in over a dozen states banning them, Europeans have been more docile in accepting them.
Europe has not seen anything like the attack Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) recently launched against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). After the CDC insisted that passengers boarding cruise ships in Florida ports provide proof of inoculation (vaccine passport), DeSantis, in a June 3 press release, called the agency a “bureaucratic virus against science-based governance” and accused the CDC of “discriminating against children.” Florida is one of those states that have banned vaccine passports.
Bonner R. Cohen, Ph.D., (email@example.com) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.