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.
Three Cork publicans prepare to begin trade again
Pensioners who like to read the paper as they enjoy a few leisurely pints are the cohort most excited by the resumption of indoor service in pubs, according to a Cork city publican who has only traded for two weeks since March 2020.
Michael O’Donovan, who owns the Castle Inn, says his regulars have been phoning to check what time he is opening on Monday, with some saying they have not had a social outing since the start of the pandemic.
“We know all our regulars on a first-name basis. We have a man who comes in and has two or three pints on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He will read the paper but he will watch the world go by at the same time,” he said.
“He will chat when he wants to chat. He is in his late 70s and he wouldn’t have been out [socially] in 15 months.”
Mr O’Donovan said it has been a surreal time but was hopeful that better days were coming.
“We will adapt and get on with all the changes we have to make with how we do business,” he said. “It is difficult in that we never wanted to be asking people about their health status. We have to be cautious but it is another step in getting life back to the way we knew it.”
‘It has been a struggle’
Danny Collins was looking forward to reopening the Boston Bar in Bantry, west Cork after a year of many sleepless nights due to worries about keeping the business afloat.
“I have been going through my savings to pay the mortgage as we were only open for a couple of weeks last year,” the independent councillor said.
“It has been a struggle. Of course there were other bills as well. To have your pub cameras, you had to pay the internet bill. I was also advised to keep my cooler system running. In the winter, I had to put on the heating.”
Mr Collins said he was apprehensive about all the different regulations that will have to be complied with as indoor service returns, such as staffing all entrances, and that finding employees had been a struggle for those in the sector.
“I think the PUP [Pandemic Unemployment Payment] should be reviewed at this point,” he said.
‘We can’t wait to open’
In Cork city, publican Ernest Cantillon will be opening Electric bar/restaurant and Sober Lane bar this week.
During the pandemic, he set up an online cocktail sales business and sold takeaway food, allowing him to keep a core team of about 15 people employed despite his business only opening as a traditional pub for a couple of weeks last year.
“We have also shifted to a new model of opening four evenings a week,” he said. “We are opening next Wednesday through Saturday and then staff will have three days off. That has been a key factor in staff retention and recruitment. We are going to give it a go. We can’t wait to open.”
Germany’s flood zones spared severe storms on Saturday
In the west of the country, the fire brigade reported a quiet night in the flood areas in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine Westphalia.
The situation remains tense, however, with local thunderstorms forecast in some parts of Germany from midday on Sunday — most likely south of the Danube.
Further heavy rain and hail were also possible again, according to the German Weather Service (DWD), which publishes storm warnings.
The latest storms came just days after parts of the country were hit by devastating floods after torrential rains that ravaged entire villages and left 180 people dead, hundreds injured and with many still missing.
The flooding also caused damage in Belgium, where 37 people died, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland.
Prosecutors allege R Kelly had sexual contact with under-age boy
US prosecutors in R Kelly’s sex trafficking case say he had sexual contact with an under-age boy in addition to girls, and the government wants jurors in his upcoming sex-trafficking trial to hear those claims.
Federal prosecutors aired a wide-ranging raft of additional allegations – but not new charges – against the R&B singer in a court filing on Friday.
Jury selection is due to start August 9th in a New York federal court for Kelly, who denies ever abusing anyone.
The Grammy Award-winning singer is charged with leading what prosecutors call a criminal enterprise of managers, bodyguards and other employees who allegedly helped him to recruit women and girls for sex and pornography and to exercise control over them.
The charges involve six different women and girls, who are not named in court filings.
Now, prosecutors would also like jurors to hear about more than a dozen other people whom the government alleges that Kelly sexually or physically abused, threatened or otherwise mistreated.
Among them, the government says, was a 17-year-old boy and aspiring musician whom Kelly met at a McDonald’s in December 2006 and later invited to his Chicago studio.
According to the prosecutors’ court filing, after asking the boy what he would do to make it in the music business, Kelly propositioned and had sexual contact with him while he was still under-age.
And when Kelly was about to go on trial on child pornography charges in Chicago in 2008, the same youth told the singer he had access to a juror, and Kelly asked him to contact the juror and vouch he was a “good guy”, prosecutors wrote.
The filing does not say whether the youth did so. Kelly was acquitted in that case.
The boy also introduced Kelly to a 16- or 17-year-old male friend, with whom prosecutors say the singer began a sexual relationship several years later.
Kelly also filmed the two youths in sexual encounters with other people, including some of Kelly’s girlfriends, according to the filing.
Prosecutors wrote that the accounts of the boys and others would help show that the actual charges “were not isolated events and were part of a larger pattern”.
The multiplatinum-selling singer, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, is known for work including the 1996 hit I Believe I Can Fly and the cult classic Trapped In The Closet, a multi-part tale of sexual betrayal and intrigue.
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