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EU vaccine chief hopes for tourism boost as he unveils Covid-19 ‘health passport’

The head of the European Commission vaccines task force, Thierry Breton, unveiled the first European "health passport" on Sunday, claiming he hopes Europe will have a summer season "comparable to last year".

EU vaccine chief hopes for tourism boost as he unveils Covid-19 'health passport'
It's hoped the health passport will open up Europe for tourism in 2021. Photo: Gabriella Clare Marino/Unsplash

The new health certificate should be available “within two to three months” in both digital and paper formats, Breton told RTL radio and TV channel LCI.

For the first time, people got a glimpse of the health passport that will be made available throughout the EU, validated by the 27 member states.

“From the moment we can be sure that every European who wants to be vaccinated will have fair access to the vaccine, as will be the case in the next two to three months – it will be good to have a health certificate that demonstrates your condition,” said Breton.

Implementing the health travel document is planned for June, which would allow travel to resume across Europe, he added.

This is supported by an acceleration of Covid-19 vaccination rollouts, with the European Union expected to deliver 420 million doses by mid-July.

READ ALSO: EU vaccine passports must prevent ‘discrimination’: European Commission

Describing the EU’s vaccination campaign, he said, “We have to shift to the next gear. This will be the price for having a tourist season that I hope will be comparable to last year’s, which in the end wasn’t so bad in the context we’re in.”

Included in the digital version of the passport will be a QR code, the state you’re from and whether you have been vaccinated or not. The paper version will contain personal details such as name and date of birth and also the passport number that is certified with a QR code, detailing whether you’ve been vaccinated and if you’ve been a carrier of the disease.

READ ALSO: Could ‘health passports’ kickstart travel around Europe?

“For those who have had neither the vaccine nor the disease and for whom a PCR test will be requested, you can see the status of your PCR test,” he added.

The EU’s vaccination scheme has been dogged by delays and shortfalls, with controversy over AstraZeneca’s distribution of doses creating even more friction within the bloc.

After some countries paused the administration of AstraZeneca and later resumed the rollout, like Italy, other countries across Europe are currently not giving any of this firm’s doses to citizens, including Norway and Denmark.

But Breton insisted that any AstraZeneca vaccinations produced in the EU will stay there until the company delivers on its commitments.

READ ALSO: AstraZeneca vaccine ‘safe and effective’ against Covid-19, European Medicines Agency concludes

Member comments

  1. And yet the question remains…even if parents are vaccinated, what requirements will be placed for children for whom the vaccine is not available…

  2. Have been wishing for huge amounts of vaccine to be given to Italy!! This is a tragedy that is so solvable by an organized program. The EU BIG WIGS are to blame. The Italian people must be helped quickly!

  3. This is going to create a two-tiered society. If you are not vaccinated (through no fault of your own…the scarcity of vaccines, and focus on the elderly makes a huge portion of the population not able to get vaccinated) you will be burned with the time and expense of getting a PCR test, while those who are fortunate to be vaccinated not only get that benefit, but don’t have to spend more and time and money. Seems that the country needs a large percentage of the population vaccinated in order to make all this movement safe (same for the new April 26 opening) as we will otherwise end up in lockdown all over again. We all saw what summer travel did last year. This is all about grabbing the summer income and not about respecting the endless sacrifice we’ve all gone through with endless lockdowns. And, now, the punishment of those who can’t even get a vaccine. At the very least those PCR tests better be free.

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For members

COVID-19: ESSENTIAL INFO

How unvaccinated people can use France’s health passport

A health passport is now required to access a range of venues in France including bars, cafés, tourist sites and long-distance travel. For those who are not yet fully vaccinated, accessing the passport is still possible, but more complicated. Here's how it works.

How unvaccinated people can use France's health passport
Photo: Geoffroy van der Hasselt/AFP

The French government has been clear that part of the intention of the pass sanitaire (health passport) is to push people into being vaccinated and as such daily life in France is now more complicated for those who are not vaccinated.

But for those who either cannot be vaccinated or have not yet completed the full vaccination course, it is still possible to access the passport.

EXPLAINED When and where you need the French health passport

Proof

The health passport requires one of three things; proof of fully vaccinated status, proof of a recent negative Covid test or proof of recent recovery from Covid.

‘Fully vaccinated’ here means having a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca – including Covishield – or Johnson & Johnson) so those who received a Sinopharm or Sputnik vaccine do not count as ‘vaccinated’ under French rules. You also need to be at least seven days post your final dose of the vaccine.

Most people have two doses of the vaccine, but ‘fully vaccinated’ can also mean a single dose of Johnson & Johnson, a single vaccine dose if you have previously had Covid or three doses if you are severely immunosuppressed.

Those vaccinated outside France may need to convert their certificates to make sure they are compatible with the French app – click HERE if you were vaccinated in the UK or HERE if you were vaccinated in the USA.

Covid recovery

If you have recently recovered from Covid you will need a positive Covid test that is no more than six months old. If you did not have a test while you were ill, or had Covid more than six months ago, you cannot use this route.

Recent negative test

If you are going for the testing option, there are some stipulations;

  • The test must be no more than 72 hours old (expanded from 48 hours initially) so if you intend to rely on testing you will need regular tests
  • The test must be taken in France, the app does not recognise foreign test certificates
  • The test can be either a PCR or antigen test. Home-testing kits can be used, but only – the health minister says – if done under the supervision of a pharmacist or medical professional (so it seems that you may as well get the pharmacist to do the test).

How to get a test

Some good news for those travelling from the UK, France’s testing system is much less chaotic and considerably less expensive than the UK’s and tests are relatively easy to access.

You can find tests at either medical testing labs, pharmacies or pop-up testing centres – either a PCR or an antigen test works with the health passport.

Medical labs require advance booking but most pharmacies advertise tests sans rendez-vous (without appointment) and pop-up testing centres (which are often just a gazebo on a street corner) operate on a walk-in basis.

Almost all pharmacies offer tests and even quite small French towns generally have at least one pharmacy, and you can also book tests online either via the medical app Doctolib or at sante.fr.

READ ALSO Vital French vocab to get a Covid test

Results for PCR tests are sent out later via email or SMS (usually within 24 hours) while for antigen tests they are generally given on the spot, although some pharmacies send them via SMS, this should not take more than 30 minutes.

How much?

At present all tests are free for residents of France, but from September ‘convenience tests’ for the unvaccinated will need to be paid for. Tests for any reason for vaccinated residents of France will continue to be free, and tests for those with symptoms or who are contact cases will be free for all residents.

Tourists and visitors to France need to pay for their tests.

Costs are capped by the French government at;

PCR – €49

Antigen – €29

What about children?

Children under the age of 12 are exempt from the health pass requirement.

Those aged between 12 and 18 are required to use it, but have a grace period until September 30th to allow them time to get vaccinated, after that they will need to show a health pass to access relevant venues.

France, along with quite a few other European countries, is currently vaccinating all over 12s, but if you are travelling from October from a country where the vaccine is not available to under 18s, then your children will need a test to access the health pass.

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