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It is the health services that will issue a vaccination certificate

How to order, what information does it give and how will it work? These are some of the questions that citizens ask. Know the answers.

In mid-May, negotiators for the Portuguese presidency of the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament reached a political agreement on the creation of the EU Covid Digital Certificate, proposed by the European Commission last March, the approval by the assembly of the compromise text, which legally frames the document, paves the way for its entry into force, as planned, on 1 July and with a duration of 12 months.

This certificate, which was designed to facilitate the return to free movement within the EU, being a kind of free transit pass, should be free and will work similarly to a travel boarding pass in digital and/or paper format, with a QR code to be easily read by electronic devices in the citizen’s national language and in English.

In Portugal, the first covid-19 digital certificates for national citizens should start being issued in the middle of this week by the Shared Services of the Ministry of Health (SPMS), a government source told Lusa on Sunday. But what is this certificate, how will it work and how to get it? Here are the answers.

What is the EU Digital Certificate?

It is digital proof that a person has been vaccinated against covid-19, has had a negative test result, or has recovered from the disease.

What are the main features of the document?

It can be in digital or paper format and has a QR code. The document is free and is in the national language and in English. The EU guarantees that it is safe and secure and valid in all countries in the Community space.

How to get this certificate?

National authorities are responsible for issuing the certificate, which can be issued by testing centres or health authorities or directly via an online health portal. Digital certificates will begin to be issued by the Shared Services of the Ministry of Health (SPMS). The digital version can be stored on a mobile device. Citizens can also request a paper version. Both versions will have a QR code that contains essential information, as well as a digital signature, to guarantee the authenticity of the certificate. These were the versions that member states agreed to facilitate recognition.

How will the certificate contribute to free movement?

The Covid EU Digital Certificate will be accepted in all EU Member States. It will help ensure that restrictions currently in place are lifted in a coordinated manner. When traveling, holders are, in principle, exempt from restrictions on free movement: Member States shall not impose additional travel restrictions on holders of this certificate, unless they are proportionate and necessary to protect public health. In that case – for example, to respond to new variants that give rise to concern – the Member State concerned has to notify the Commission and all other Member States and justify this decision.

How will the certificate work?

The certificate includes a QR code with a digital signature to prevent forgery. When the certificate is inspected, the QR code is scanned and the signature verified. Each issuing body (eg hospital, testing centre, health authority) has its own digital signature key. All these keys are registered in a secure database in each country. The European Commission has created a portal that allows you to verify all certificate signatures across the EU. Personal data of certificate holders are not transmitted to the portal, as this is not necessary to verify the digital signature. The European Commission has helped member states to develop national software and applications for issuing, storing and verifying certificates,

Will unvaccinated citizens be able to travel to another EU country with this certificate?

Yes. The EU Covid Digital Certificate should facilitate free movement within the EU – but it will not be a precondition for such movement, although this is a fundamental right in the EU – because it will also prove test results, which are often required by the strength of the applicable public health restrictions. The certificate provides an opportunity for member states to adjust existing restrictions for public health reasons. The recommendation currently in force on the coordination of restrictions on free movement in the EU will be amended in mid-June in view of the holiday season.

Is it important to know what vaccines citizens received?

Vaccination certificates will be issued to people vaccinated with any vaccine against covid-19. With regard to exemption from restrictions on free movement, member states will have to accept vaccination certificates for vaccines that have obtained an EU marketing authorization. Member States may decide to extend this possibility also to EU travellers who have received another vaccine. It is also up to Member States to decide whether to accept a vaccination certificate after a dose or after completion of the vaccination cycle

What data is included in the certificate? Is the data secure?

The EU Covid Digital Certificate contains essential necessary information such as name, date of birth, date of issue, pertinent information about the vaccine/test/recovery and a unique identifier. These data remain in the certificate and are not stored or preserved, by countries or when the certificate is verified in another Member State.