Covid passports: Which countries require them, and for what

Here is an overview of how the certificate is being used in popular tourist destinations such as France, Italy and the United States

A woman shows her Covid certificate in Mont-Saint-Michel, in France.
A woman shows her Covid certificate in Mont-Saint-Michel, in France.SAMEER AL-DOUMY (AFP)

Covid passports are gradually being required more and more in Spain to access sites such as bars, cinemas and hospitals. But in other countries, this measure has been in place for months. In some of the world’s main tourist destinations, a certificate proving the holder is fully vaccinated is required to enter almost any public indoor space, but with significant variations between the states and regions.

France

The so-called “pass sanitaire” has been a requirement in France since the summer for access to all types of establishments: bars and restaurants (even outdoor dining areas), shopping malls, theaters, cinemas, nursing homes, public transportation and hospitals. The French Foreign Affairs Ministry explains that this certificate certifies that the bearer is fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or has recently tested negative for the virus. France is now doubling down on the policy. As of January 15, a third booster injection will be needed to keep the certificate valid for those who received their last dose seven months previously. The government has yet to comment on how this will affect foreigners who have only received two doses.

After the government announced the requirement for a booster injection, France’s online appointment system briefly collapsed. French authorities also announced a stricter monitoring system to establishments to ensure are asking patrons for a Covid passport. The measure is aimed at avoiding a return to the lockdowns recently seen in Austria and Germany.

United Kingdom

The National Health Service (NHS) offers a downloadable digital Covid passport, as official proof that the carrier is fully vaccinated or has recently tested negative for Covid-19. The NHS Covid passport is accepted within the European Union, and vice versa. Boris Johnson’s government has never seriously contemplated making Covid certificates mandatory for restaurants, bars, pubs or at public events. It is a different story in Scotland and Wales, where the certificate may be required for entry to cinemas, theaters, concerts or shows with more than 500 people indoors or more than 4,000 outdoors.

A patron in a London pub in July.
A patron in a London pub in July.TOLGA AKMEN (AFP)

Italy

Italy was the first Western country to impose the European Union’s Digital COVID Certificate for entry to most public spaces including workplaces. This so-called Covid passport certifies whether the bearer has been vaccinated against Covid-19, has recently recovered from an infection, or has been tested for the virus. The document is required to enter museums, restaurants, stadiums, gyms and cinemas. In September, this was extended to workplaces, a move that triggered huge protests.

On December 6, these conditions will be tightened even further, and proof of a negative test or recent recovery from Covid will no longer be sufficient, i.e. only proof of vaccination will be accepted. This will effectively make vaccination mandatory for anyone entering most public spaces, though the previous requirements will still apply for public transportation and going to work. Additionally, the validity of the certificate will be set at nine months, requiring most of the population to seek a third dose of the vaccine in short order.

Germany

New restrictions have been imposed in recent days to try to contain Germany’s fourth wave of coronavirus, where cases have hit almost 440 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the last seven days (as of Friday). On Thursday, Germany reached 100,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic, and between 200 and 300 people are still dying from Covid-19 every day.

With infections soaring, the central and federal administrations are reintroducing restrictions, which vary considerably from state to state. In general, entry to bars, restaurants and entertainment or cultural activities indoors requires proof of vaccination or proof of recovery from Covid-19 within the last six months. Berlin and other states also require a recent negative test to eat in restaurants. A certificate of vaccination, recovery from Covid or a negative test are required on public transportation.

Nurses help a patient in an intensive care unit in Germany.
Nurses help a patient in an intensive care unit in Germany.Hendrik Schmidt (AP)

Portugal

As of December 1, Portugal has tightened its restrictions to try and halt a consistent increase in infections, despite having one of the highest vaccination rates in the European Union (87%). Masks are mandatory in all enclosed spaces and a Covid certificate is required to access restaurants, hotels, tourist apartments, gyms and events with pre-assigned seats. In addition, a negative Covid test is required to access hospitals, nursing homes, nightclubs, bars and sporting events or activities without assigned seats. Visitors to Portugal must also provide a negative Covid test, even if they are fully vaccinated. The government will fine airlines that allow passengers to travel without a test €20,000 euros per violation.

United States

After 20 months of restricting non-essential travel, the United States lifted restrictions for travelers from dozens of countries who are not US citizens or legal permanent residents, as long as they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Travelers from European Union countries, the United Kingdom, China, India and Brazil all benefited from the change in policy. Before traveling to the US, foreign nationals must present a vaccination certificate at check-in, and must also show a negative PCR test performed in the previous 72 hours. More than 80% of US adults have received at least one dose of vaccine, and about 60% are fully vaccinated.

As in many areas, the requirement of a vaccination certificate for access to movie theaters, restaurants or bars depends on the state, and even on specific counties within those states. Visitors to New York must be fully vaccinated to enter restaurants and bars, but the mayor of Washington DC, Muriel Bowser, announced a relaxation of the rules last week regarding the use of masks. Face masks will be mandatory in schools and hospitals, but businesses and entertainment venues can decide whether they want to impose them on customers.

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