With the Digital Green Certificate (DGC) the EU is taking a very important initiative to contribute to reopening our society and economies in the ‘tail’ of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Its main objective is to help reopen intra EEA borders for business and leisure travel, and tourism. The DGC serves as proof of reduced contagion risk by meeting at least one of three requirements: completed vaccination, completed recovery, or recent negative test result. Exceptions for special cases are foreseen.

In addition to known limitations of vaccination and recovery (limited reduction of infection transfer) and tests (‘not yet detectably infected’), other issues complicate realization and operation of a DGC system: timing, trust, privacy, unintended use.

With the main holiday season arriving there is a timing issue, with vaccination campaigns in most EEA countries still months from completion, resulting in local and cross border inequality between vaccinated and not yet vaccinated citizens. It also means more dependency on tests, for locals and even more for visitors.

Operation of the DGC system requires trust in the system, by both officials and citizens. Authorizing exceptions for persons not (fully) meeting DGC requirements is a necessity, but also a rather complex aspect, that could lead to (the suspicion of) misuse.

Reactions to DGC tend towards a consensus on the need and conditional acceptance for cross border travel, where privacy and the access to private and medical information is nevertheless concerns. For other purposes such as access to events, restaurants, cinemas, public transport, etc., opinions appear to be rather strongly divided. However, the implementation of such usage at the national level is simpler than implementation and operation at EEA level, and such other usage is already developing in countries. 

 One could formulate two theses concerning privacy in this respect:

  • In leisure and pleasure privacy is often not at the same level as in other activities
  • More attention is given to users’ privacy, but privacy is not public health friendly