The EU and the European Parliament has issued more information on its COVID-19 digital certificate and it does not run parallel to Malta’s recent pandemic regulations.
The European Commission established a binding acceptance period of nine months of vaccination certificates as of 1st February, following a primary 2-dose vaccination series or 1-dose series for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, for the purposes of intra-EU travel.
Such a uniform validity period was made to ensure that travel measures among EU countries continue to be coordinated, the data takes into account the guidance of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, according to which booster doses are recommended at the latest six months after the completion of the first vaccination cycle.
A grace period of an additional three months was granted by the EU to ensure that national vaccination campaigns can adjust and citizens can gain access to the booster doses.
This means that Malta’s new travel restrictions go against EU policy because, as of 1st February, the island will enforce a two-week quarantine to residents who do not possess a booster certificate.
In fact, the EU has made it clear that they are focusing on what they call a “person-based approach” which asserts that someone with a valid EU Digital COVID Certificate should not be subject to additional restrictions, in principle.
This includes tests and quarantines, regardless of a person’s country of departure in the EU.
“When travelling, the EU Digital COVID Certificate holder should in principle be exempt from free movement restrictions: Member States should refrain from imposing additional travel restrictions on the holders of an EU Digital COVID Certificate, unless they are necessary and proportionate to safeguard public health,” the union explained.
“In such a case – for instance as a reaction to new variants of concern – that Member State would have to notify the Commission and all other Member States and justify this decision.”
In this case, Malta must either give sufficient justification for the restrictions or act in accordance to the EU guidelines.
On the other hand, without a certificate, you might be subject to further restriction and this decision has been left up to member states.
The certificate does, however, cover test and recovery certificates – both of which aren’t recognised under Malta’s current travel restrictions.
According to the EU, recovered persons should be exempt from travel related testing or quarantine during the first 180 days after a positive PCR test.
Meanwhile, persons with a test certificate should be exempt from possible quarantine requirements if they have a negative PCR test taken up to 72 hours before travel or, where accepted by a Member State, 48 hours for rapid antigen tests.
When it comes to domestic purposes, the digital certificate can be used but it is not regulated on an EU level.
To add to this, an app called GreenPass was created by three university students that can validate vaccination, test and recovery certificates according to the specific requirements of the respective EU countries – this has not yet been officially recognised though.
Malta has created its own certificate scanner app called Compass Malta but it can only be used on androids.
Nonetheless, it seems as if Malta’s intra-travel rules must be amended according to EU standards, unless they can provide sufficient justification for the additional restrictions.
This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
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