ΑΤΗΕΝS -- Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' suggestion the European Union should have a bloc-wide certificate showing proof of a COVID-19 vaccination to facilitate travel and tourism will have its test run – in Greece.
The EU, notorious for a cumbersome bureaucracy and inefficiency, said it will be available July 1, too late for many people to make summer travel plans, but Greece wasted no time, introducing it June 2 in paper and cell phone modes.
It hasn't been determined yet either which countries have safe enough records in dealing with the pandemic so they are eligible to use it, the EU still fumbling with details, but Greeks who get one are free to travel in the 27 member states.
Digital Governance Minister Kyriakos Pierrakakis told SKAI TV that Greece is among the first to begin a pilot trial, having already opened its doors on May 15 to international travelers who are vaccinated or free of the Coronavirus.
Officials expect all EU members, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, to activate the digital certificate on July 1. Greek citizens can obtain the certificate online at eudcc.gov.gr, using their Taxisnet or Social Security Registry (AMKA) number if they are fully vaccinated, recovered from the virus or have had a recent negative molecular or rapid antigen test.
Each country can post its own guidelines as to how conditions must be met, so prospective travelers must inquire whether their certificate is valid for the country or countries they plan to visit, adding confusion to the scheme.
The EU Digital Covid Certificate is issued for free and can be printed. It includes a QR code with a digital signature and is in both the issuing country’s language and in English. In Greece, it will be be issued through the Citizens’ Service Centers (KEP), either online (kep.gov.gr) or in person.
Six other countries, including Germany, are also jumping in although vaccines not approved for use across the EU are also going to be allowed for eligibility, some that had dubious results, their efficacy in question.
“EU citizens are looking forward to traveling again, and they want to do so safely. Having an EU certificate is a crucial step on the way,” EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said.
Pierrakakis, said easier travel would open up within the EU as nations adopted the new verification standard even though it's not standard nor uniform and can vary widely from country to country.
“What will happen is that countries will stop issuing certificates using their own convention and adopt the common convention. That will simplify things considerably, because you can imagine the number of bilateral agreements that would otherwise need to be worked out,” Pierrakakis also said.
Kyriakides said in the next few weeks, all EU nations needed to “fully finalize their national systems to issue, store and verify certificates, so the system is functioning in time for the holiday season,” although that will be too late for many to make plans.
Tests on human waste show that the viral load is either declining very slowly or stabilizing in many parts of Greece, although slower in Attica prefecture, which includes the capital and half the country's population.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)