The Greek government has unveiled the first EU Covid passport, described by the country’s prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, as a “fast lane to facilitate travel”, after a successful dry run of the technology.
At a launch in Athens, Mitsotakis, who had led calls for a way to open up Europe in time for the summer tourism season, said the system would be up and running in Greece before a deadline set by Brussels for 1 July.
“This is particularly important for Greece as a tourism country but I think important for every single state because what we want to do is we want to restore freedom of movement,” he said. “Essentially, it includes all the information that a member state would need to welcome a traveller without imposing additional restrictions: proof of vaccination, a proof of negative test PCR, or antigen or a proof of [past] illness.”
The technology was presented followed a successful trial of the interoperability of the Greek passport with systems in Germany and Iceland.
Hospitals, test centres and health authorities, among others, will issue digital or paper certificates providing proof of a negative PCR test result, full vaccination or proof of having had the virus. A QR code on the certificate, which can be stored on a mobile, can be scanned by border guards.
The EU system will tie up with those of other countries, such as the US and the UK, although the British government is yet to provide details of its model. Should the UK government not launch such a passport, fully vaccinated Britons who wish to travel will be issued with the EU’s digital or paper certification in their destination country on providing the appropriate paperwork from home.
Every EU citizen or third-country national legally staying or residing in the bloc who holds the so-called “digital green certificate” should be exempted from free movement restrictions.
If an EU country continues to require those with a certificate to quarantine or test, it must notify the European Commission and all 26 member states to justify this decision.
Charles Michel, the former prime minister of Belgium who is president of the European Council, said: “The free movement of people is a great European achievement, and it’s why it’s so important to demonstrate after this Covid crisis that you are able to guarantee the free movement of citizens.”
Greece has moved more quickly than most of the EU’s 27 member states by opening to tourists before the Covid passport is in operation. The government is allowing tourists from the UK to visit without any requirements to quarantine if they have proof of a negative PCR test undertaken within 72 hours of arrival or proof of two vaccinations completed at least 14 days before travel.