EU officials stated that health passports or travel certificates for European holiday makers should be ready by summer 2021. This would be a relief for airlines and travellers… but will it come from the beginning of summer?
As we have seen, there is substantial demand for a way to restart travel, all over the world. Like many countries and areas around the world, the EU has been looking at ways of introducing health passports that would satisfy everyone involved. Like many things in the EU, getting universal agreement on the matter is proving difficult. But airlines as well as many interested countries, want to make sure that the initiative goes forward.
And now, EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders told lawmakers that such health passports will be available by summer. The official explained:
“What we want is to give to citizens and member states a tool that provides the necessary trust and confidence. A tool that competent authorities can rely on wherever needed to facilitate free movement.
“Similarly, an airline company could… verify the validity of the certificate in a simple way at the check-in. Long discussions at the gate should be avoided.”
Reynders and many others in the EU are keen to point out that these health passes or passports will not work as vaccination passports. They will contain more information, like testing and/or recovery from the virus. This gives alternative options to those who cannot or will not have one of the vaccines. Speaking of which, the health passports will require EU member states to accept those vaccines that already have EU approval. But countries could choose to add more vaccines on this list.
Alternatives to EU Health Passports?
Meanwhile, as we have seen some countries like Greece and Spain are making contingency preparations. With tourism being a vital source of income, these countries don’t want to risk losing visitors due to EU health passport delays. Summer is not very far away, and after 2020, tourism-dependant businesses and countries want to minimize obstacles for travellers. These countries are working with individual EU states, to formulate their own travel passes/passports/certificates, as an alternative.
There is also the rather important matter of the UK. At the moment there is no word if EU Health Passports will have any validity for non-EU visitors, like Britons. Again, countries keen to take in tourists have been busy making arrangements with the UK on the matter. However, there is another, practical issue in the UK concerning the cost of COVID-19 tests. Those who haven’t yet received the vaccine and won’t have it in time for their holidays are looking at some hefty costs.
Airlines in the UK are warning authorities that the cost for a COVID-19 PCR test in the country can be double what it costs in the EU. With Health Passports in the EU and elsewhere accepting tests in lieu of vaccinations, this could matter for many travellers. But airlines are worried that the cost of PCR testing a whole family could prove forbidding for many. This would be doubly true (literally) if the family need another test when returning to the UK.
Overall, health passports, passes or certificates, may be closer in terms of acceptance, between EU member states. But this still leaves implementation. With countries seeing the matter with very different degrees of urgency, the exact timing of the arrival of these passes is still uncertain.