CORONAVIRUS

Spain rolls out the European Union’s Digital Covid Certificate system

The country is now one of eight that has started to issue and accept the QR codes, which allow travelers freedom of movement across the bloc with no need to show coronavirus tests nor quarantine if they meet the required criteria

Passengers arriving at Barcelona's El Prat airport on Monday.
Passengers arriving at Barcelona's El Prat airport on Monday.Emilio Morenatti / AP

The first travelers bearing the European Union’s Digital Covid Certificate arrived in Spain on Monday. “Some 30 to 40 people” presented the document yesterday in Spanish airports, which are already equipped to scan them and allow bearers to pass without the need to quarantine nor present a negative coronavirus test. That’s according to Alfredo González, the general secretary for Digital Health, Information and Innovation at the Spanish national health system. Spain has joined seven other European countries that have already started the system. A number of regions are already expediting the certificate to their citizens, while “the majority” of the rest will do so this week, González explained on Monday.

The certificate consists of a free QR code, which can be either digital or physical in form, and that certifies whether the bearer has had Covid-19 over the last six months, has tested negative for the coronavirus via a PCR or antigen test 11 days prior to the emission of the document, and whether or not they have been vaccinated 14 days previously. The scheme is still yet to be fully approved by the European Parliament, but this could happen as early as today. Spain, in the meantime, is already using the system.

On Monday afternoon, the regional governments of Andalusia, Valencia and Navarre announced that their citizens could already download the certificates. In Andalusia, the over-65s will receive a physical copy delivered to their homes, given that they “are not accustomed to the digital routes,” according to regional premier Juan Manuel Moreno. The rest of the fully vaccinated population will be able to request it via the Andalusian health service website or app, Eva Saiz reports.

Passengers in the Adolfo Suárez Madrid Barajas airport.
Passengers in the Adolfo Suárez Madrid Barajas airport.EFE

Andalusia is also studying whether it can vaccinate residents of other regions against Covid-19 while they are on vacation in their territory. This possibility was mooted on Monday by Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts (CCAES). “If it’s just a question of days, it’s better [for the vaccine] to be administered in your own region, but it is possible for this to happen in another,” Simón explained at a press conference on Monday.

As in Andalusia, citizens who meet the requirements can request the certificate via their region’s healthcare website or app, or via their primary healthcare centers in some areas. The Digital Covid Certificate should be available to residents of Spain, regardless of nationality. This is likely to include United Kingdom nationals, who should not be affected by the fact that their country has now left the European Union via the process commonly known as “Brexit.”

The aim of the certificate, González explained, is to “facilitate movement” between EU countries. But it is still possible to travel without one – destinations may, however, request complimentary coronavirus tests or require quarantines on arrival.

Global travelers

Spain also loosened its restrictions on Monday for non-EU arrivals, allowing access for anyone who can show that they have received full protection from the vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or the World Health Organization (WHO) 14 days prior to arrival. The current exceptions for this rule are South Africa, Brazil and India, due to coronavirus variants of concern that are circulating there.

All passengers, however, must still complete a Spain Travel Health Form before they arrive in the country, which facilitates contact tracing should a Covid-19 case be detected.

Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia and Poland are the other countries that have so far implemented the use of the Digital Covid Certificate. All of the EU member states will be doing the same until July 1, from which point its use will be obligatory across the bloc. Until then, the system will be considered to be in a testing phase, albeit with “full validity,” according to González.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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