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Travel to Spain: The EU Digital Covid Certificate: Who will be issuing them and what are they for? | Society

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A passenger checks in at Madrid's Barajas Airport in March 2021.
A passenger checks in at Madrid’s Barajas Airport in March 2021.Alberto Ortega / Europa Press

From July 1, the European Union is going to put into use a “coronavirus passport” that will allow its citizens to travel across the 27-country bloc without the need for quarantines – assuming the epidemiological situation does not take a new turn for the worse. The “EU Digital Covid Certificate,” as the scheme is known, is seeking to standardize the documents issued by each country so that they can be recognized by each member.

What is the passport for?

The EU Digital Covid Certificate aims to guarantee the use of national certificates across the union that prove that the holder has been vaccinated against Covid-19, has had a negative PCR or antigen test for the virus, or has recovered from the illness thus enjoying a period of immunity from reinfection.

Can countries use the passport for other purposes?

This is within their powers. For example, some countries want this document not just to be used for the free circulation of travelers across the EU, but also for social events. Austria wants to use it for access to hotels, restaurants and cultural activities.

Who will issue these certificates?

The member states will decide this. In the case of Spain, the regions – which are in charge of their own healthcare systems as well as the overall control of the pandemic in their territories – can be assigned this task. The Health Ministry will place the technical means necessary at their disposal so that they can consult the central vaccination register.

What format will they be available in?

Citizens can choose between paper, digital or both.

Why is this being done?

After a number of EU countries announced that they would create such certificates, Brussels decided that it should guarantee a model that will allow for the recovery of full movement within the EU. The bloc is also seeking to put an end to fake PCR test and vaccine certificates, by creating a homogenized system where the data can be verified.

What data should be included?

The data included should facilitate cross-EU functionality – i.e. so that a country can accept a document that has been issued by another EU member. In particular, the certificate should include a barcode or QR code that allows for the verification of the authenticity and validity of the document, among others. The certificate will have to be in the official languages of the issuing country and in English. What’s more, another document will contain the details of the Covid-19 vaccine the holder has received, the result of a PCR test or information that guarantees that the bearer has overcome the virus should they have contracted it previously.

Why have these three scenarios been chosen?

The Commission believes that scientific literature has by now consistently concluded that the Covid-19 vaccines contribute to breaking the chain of transmission an that those who have had Covid-19 in the last six months have a reduced risk of infecting others.

How can you prove that you have had Covid-19?

The document must include the date of the first positive PCR test. That certificate is only valid for 180 days.

Do I have to pay for the document?

No, the certificate is free. To avoid fraud, a fee may be charged should the holder repeatedly lose the document.

When does it come into force?

On July 1. For countries that are not ready in time, an introductory period is being considered. In Spain, the certificate will come into force ahead of that date – in fact it may start as early as today with a pilot program, coinciding with the reopening of Spanish borders to global visitors who have been vaccinated.

Does this mean that being vaccinated is obligatory for travel?

No. In fact, the passport cannot be a precondition for travel.

What advantages will I have if I have the Spanish certificate?

The Spanish Covid certificate will guarantee that the bearer the same rights as local citizens when in another EU country. For example, if an Austrian restaurant only permits patrons with the certificate, the Spanish document will be equally valid.

Which vaccines are allowed?

The EU will accept all of those authorized by the European Medicines Agency (EMA): Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Janssen. However, a country will also be able to accept certificates expedited for anyone who has received a vaccine validated by an EU member state, one that has temporary authorization or whose use has been approved for emergency reasons by the World Health Organization (WHO). The EU regulation only states that there can be no exceptions: if one state accepts that the residents of another member (or a third country) can travel with vaccines that have not been approved by the EMA they should extend this possibility to the rest of the members of the 27-country bloc.

Are measures such as quarantines ending?

This is the aim of the certificate, but each country reserves the right to impose new restrictions if they consider that the epidemiological conditions require such measures. In this case, they must be communicated with 48 hours notice, if possible, to the rest of the EU member states.

How long will the regulation in force?

So far, for 12 months. The aim of the European institutions is to lift all of the restrictions on freedom of movement when the epidemiological conditions allow. The European Commission will have to present a report four months after having started to apply the regulation and three months before this one-year period comes to an end.

English version by Simon Hunter.



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Macron presses Biden for ‘clarifications’ over submarine snub

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Macron was left furious by Australia’s decision last week to ditch a 2016 deal to buy diesel submarines from France in favour of nuclear-powered ones from the United States and Britain.

After a cabinet meeting, government spokesman Gabriel Attal made clear French anger had not abated with an unusually frank statement of Macron’s expectations from the scheduled conversation with 78-year-old Biden.

The exchange would be an opportunity to “clarify both the way in which this announcement was made and the way for an American re-engagement in its relationship with an ally,” Attal said.

Paris was particularly outraged that Australia negotiated with Washington and London in secret, which French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian denounced as “treachery” and a “stab in the back”.

French officials were notified about the loss of the contract just hours before Biden unveiled the new AUKUS security and defence partnership between the three English-speaking countries.

READ ALSO OPINION: France’s Australian submarine row shows that Macron was right about NATO

Macron was expecting “clarifications about the American decision to keep a European ally outside of fundamental talks about cooperation in the Indo-Pacific,” Attal added, without giving the schedule time for the exchange.

“We expect our allies to acknowledge that the exchanges and consultations that should have taken place did not, and that this poses a question about confidence, which all of us need to draw conclusions about now.”

Showdown

The submarine row has plunged Franco-US ties into what some analysts view as the most acute crisis since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, which Paris opposed.

After four years of tumultuous relations with ex-president Donald Trump, the spat has also dashed hopes of a complete reset under Biden, who took office in January aiming to rebuild frazzled ties with Europe.

As the row drags on, observers and some of France’s European partners are wondering how and when the French leader will call an end to the face-off, which is playing out just seven months ahead of presidential elections.

British Prime Minister Johnson said it was “time for some of our dearest friends around the world to ‘prenez un grip’ (get a grip)” in comments in Washington that mixed French and English.

“‘Donnez-moi un break’ because this is fundamentally a great step forward for global security,” he told Sky News.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, whose country is staunchly pro-American, defended Biden as “very loyal” and warned against turning “challenges which will always exist between allies into something they should not be.”

Conditions

Attal said that France and the US needed to begin a process “to create the conditions for confidence to be restored”.

As well as an acknowledgement of French interests in the Pacific region, the process should include “full recognition by our American allies of the need to boost European sovereignty as well as the importance of the growing commitment by the Europeans to their own defence and security.”

This latter point is a source of tension between Biden and Macron, who has pushed hard during his four-and-a-half years in office for Europeans to invest more in defence and pool resources in order to increase their joint military capabilities.

The US, and some EU members including Denmark and Baltic countries, see this as a potential challenge to NATO, the US-led transatlantic military alliance that has been the cornerstone of European defence since World War II.

French Defence Minister Florence Parly argued against the idea of France withdrawing from NATO command structures, which some politicians in France have suggested in the wake of the submarines snub.

“Is it worth slamming the door on NATO? I don’t think so,” she said, while adding that “political dialogue is non-existent in NATO.”

Australia’s decision to order nuclear-powered submarines was driven by concern about China’s commercial and military assertiveness in the Pacific region, where Biden is seeking to build an alliance of democratic states to help contain Beijing.



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Paschal Donohoe plans bank levy extension but lower haul

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Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe will continue the Irish banking levy beyond its scheduled conclusion date at the end of this year, but plans to lower the targeted annual haul from the current €150 million as overseas lenders Ulster Bank and KBC Bank Ireland retreat from the market, according to sources.

Reducing the industry overall levy target will avoid the remaining three banks facing higher levy bills at a time when the Government is seeking to lower its stakes in the bailed-out lenders.

AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB paid a combined €93 million levy in each of the last two years, according to their latest annual reports. A decision on the new targeted yield, currently linked to deposit interest retention tax (DIRT) collected by banks on customers’ savings, will be announced at the unveiling of Budget 2022 on October 12th.

Originally introduced in 2014 by then minister for finance Michael Noonan for three years to ensure banks made a “contribution” to a recovering economy after the sector’s multibillion-euro taxpayer bailout, the annual banking levy has since been extended to the end of 2021.

A further extension of the levy has largely been expected by the banks and industry analysts, as the sector has been able to use multibillion euro losses racked up during the financial crisis to reduce their tax bills. A spokesman for the Department of Finance declined to comment on the future status of the banking levy as planning for Budget 2022 continues.

AIB, Bank of Ireland and Permanent TSB (PTSB) alone have utilised almost €500 million of tax losses against their corporation tax bills between 2017 and 2019, according to Department of Finance figures.

Sources said that the Government will be keen not to land a levy increase on the three lenders at a time when it is currently selling down its stake in Bank of Ireland and plotting a course for the reduction of its positions in AIB and PTSB in time.

The Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF), which holds the Bank of Ireland stake on behalf of the Minister for Finance, sold 2 percentage points of holding in the market between July and August, reducing its interest to just below 12 per cent.

Meanwhile, it has been reported in recent days that the UK government is planning to lower an 8 per cent surcharge that it has applied to bank profits since the start of 2016. It comes as the general UK corporation tax is set to rise from 19 per cent to 25 per cent in 2023.

“The optics of reducing the surcharge might still be bad politically, but it would signal the partial rehabilitation for the nation’s banking sector,” said Eamonn Hughes, an analyst with Goodbody Stockbrokers, in a note to clients on Tuesday, adding that he continues to factor in a retention of the Irish banking levy in his financial estimates for banks over the medium term.

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‘Covid light’: How to get Switzerland’s data-safe Covid certificate

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One of the major concerns surrounding Switzerland’s Covid certificate, as with other Covid passports, has been privacy. 

In order to respond to these concerns, Switzerland in summer launched the ‘Covid light’ certificate. 

Unlike the Covid certificate itself, which displays which vaccine they had, the date on which they were vaccinated, whether they have recovered from the virus or whether they tested negative, the Covid light certificate simply shows whether or not a person’s credentials are valid. 

As noted directly by the government “the certificate light does not contain any health data; it merely shows that the holder has a valid COVID certificate.”

More information about the certificate itself can be found at the following link. 

UPDATE: What is Switzerland’s data-safe ‘light’ Covid certificate?

Importantly, the Covid light certificate only works in Switzerland, i.e. it cannot be used for travel purposes or in other countries. 

What exactly is the certificate light and is it in digital form? 

The ‘certificate light’ might sound like a separate document from the main Covid certificate, but in reality is effectively a data-safe function of the app itself. 

This function can be switched on, from which point the certificate only provides minimal data, including your name, date of birth, electronic signature and whether the certificate is valid or not. 

While this is done in the app, it can also be printed out. 

How do I get the certificate light?

If you go into your Covid certificate app, you can see there is an option to get a ‘certificate light’ if you tap on the certificate itself. 

Once the certificate is activated, it will be valid for 48 hours. After that 48 hour period, it must be activated again. 

UPDATED: A step-by-step guide to getting the Swiss Covid certificate

If you need to show your actual Covid certificate after you have activated certificate light (for instance for travel), you will need to deactivate it. 

The certificate light can be activated and deactivated again and again at no cost. 

The following diagram, produced by the Swiss government, shows how the certificate can be activated and deactivated (albeit in relatively shabby resolution). 

Switzerland’s Covid light certificate. Image: FOPH.



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