Seven European countries started issuing “vaccine passports” on Tuesday, underscoring how digital credential systems could play a critical role in resuming international travel.
"The EU Digital Covid Certificate” is a special code that can be shown on a screen or printed out to verify that a person has been vaccinated against the coronavirus, received a negative test or has recovered from the virus. The system seeks to exempt people with certificates from certain quarantine requirements.
Germany and Greece are among the countries already issuing the passes, and the certificates are expected to be rolled out in all 27 European Union countries as of July 1.
"EU citizens are looking forward to travelling again, and they want to do so safely,” Stella Kyriakides, European commissioner for health and food safety, said in a news release. “Having an EU certificate is a crucial step on the way.”
In response to privacy concerns about the system, the European Commission has built what it calls a “gateway” that will verify the certificates across the EU, but does not store individuals' data. All data that needs to be retained for the system to work is stored in the country that issued the individual their certificate.
As of Tuesday, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece and Poland have begun accepting the EU Digital COVID Certificate from outside visitors.
The EU said that all 27 Member States have passed "technical tests" and can begin using the new technology on a "voluntary basis."
"The EU Digital COVID Certificate provides European citizens with a common tool to allow them to move freely and safely again," said Didier Reynders, European Commissioner for Justice.
The EU maintains that no private information or data will be exchanged or shared through usage of the certificate.