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EU digital cert begins today in all member states except Ireland

Ireland is due to adopt the plan from 19 July with the delay put down to the HSE hack.

Ireland and non EU member Switzerland are technically ready but not signed up yet.
Ireland and non EU member Switzerland are technically ready but not signed up yet.

THE EU-WIDE Covid certificate for easier travel came into force today in all member states except for Ireland. 

The EU document — essentially a QR code available on smartphones or on paper — shows whether the bearer is vaccinated with one of the EU’s approved jabs (from BioNTech/Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson), or whether they have recovered from an infection or recently tested negative.

Ireland is due to sign up to the scheme from 19 July, with the delay partly a result of the cyber-attack targeting the HSE in May. 

“Due to a cyber attack in Ireland it was difficult to reach the goal to have all of the technical solutions in place before 1 July but for all the other member states we don’t have any concerns about the way to proceed,” European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders said yesterday. 

Even though the EU Digital Covid Certificate is up and running from today, the highly infectious Delta variant is already threatening to curtail its use.

Under EU law, the certificate is meant to do away with the need for quarantines or further testing when travelling between the EU’s 27 countries or four associated European nations (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein).

But a surge in the Delta variant, first detected in India and now quickly gaining ground elsewhere, could trigger an “emergency brake” provision suspending the certificate’s acceptance.

Already Germany has a ban on incoming travellers from Portugal, where the Delta variant has become dominant. Only its own citizens or residents are allowed in from Portugal, and they must quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.

Berlin’s decision has raised Brussels’ ire, with EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders saying on Wednesday that “we should avoid travel bans” within the EU and stressing that Germany should have consulted with its partners first.

Ireland is set to adopt the EU Digital Covid Certificate in full from 19 July, with Transport Minister Eamon Ryan saying last week that it is best to follow a “European approach”.  

Britain’s Delta problem

The startling rise in Delta cases in the UK, with a rolling two-week infection rate more than seven times that of the EU, is generating deep concern on the continent.

This week, Portugal, Spain and Malta all abruptly increased restrictions for travellers from the UK, although the three said they would accept fully vaccinated Britons.

People travelling from Britain to Ireland are being told to quaratine at home for a full ten days if they have not been fully vaccinated. 

The World Health Organization added to the overall unease by warning today that Covid case numbers in Europe were on the rise once again, up 10% after two months of decline, because of a loosening of social restrictions and increased travel.

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The darkening context could limit the effects of the EU certificate.

© – AFP 2021 with reporting by Rónán Duffy

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