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EU lawmakers approve COVID passport ahead of summer tourist season

People sunbathing on beach in Barcelona, Spain
People sunbathe on the beach in Barcelona, Spain, on Tuesday.
(Emilio Morenatti / Associated Press)

European Union lawmakers Wednesday endorsed a new travel certificate that will allow people to move between the bloc’s member countries without having to quarantine or undergo extra coronavirus tests, just in time for the summer tourist season.

The widely awaited certificate is aimed at saving Europe’s travel industry and prime tourist sites from another disastrous summer. Key travel destinations such as Greece have led the drive for the certificate, which will have both paper and digital forms, to be rapidly introduced.

Several EU countries have already begun using the system, including Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece and Poland.

Right now, traveling between the EU’s 27 nations is a trial for tourists and airlines alike. Countries have various COVID-19 “traffic-light” systems, where those in green are considered safe and those in red to be avoided. But each nation applies different rules and standards, making travel confusing for all.

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The new regulations governing the vaccine certificates were adopted in two votes at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. Rules for EU citizens were passed 546 to 93, with 51 abstentions. Those for people from outside the bloc passed 553 to 91, with 46 abstentions.

The vote must still be approved by individual EU nations, but that’s likely a formality.

The European Union has cemented its support for Pfizer-BioNTech and its novel COVID-19 vaccine technology by agreeing to a massive contract extension.

Under the new system, which begins July 1 and lasts for 12 months, all EU countries must recognize the vaccine certificate. They will be issued without charge and certify that a person has either been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, has recently tested negative for the coronavirus or has recovered from the disease.

The rules will not be heavily enforced for the first six weeks, to allow countries to prepare.

The passes will be issued by individual nations, not from a centralized European system. They will contain a QR code with advanced security features. Personal data will not be shared with other countries.

Spanish Socialist lawmaker Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar, who chaperoned the votes through parliament, said: “EU states are encouraged to refrain from imposing further restrictions, unless strictly necessary and proportionate.”

People coming from outside the EU will be able to get a certificate if they can convince authorities in the EU country they enter that they qualify for one.


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