Starting today, Belgian residents travelling within the European Union for summer can request a coronavirus certificate to prove that they are Covid-free. Whilst the European ‘Digital Covid Certificate’ should facilitate travel from 1st July, the Belgian certificate connecting to the EU’s gateway system is already available both digitally and by paper document. Barbara Van Den Haute from Digital Flanders, who are responsible for the digitalisation of public services in Flanders, told VRT NWS.“We are already launching it now so that we can test it for two weeks and issue a lot of certificates in time.” “There are also people who are already travelling around. Then they can immediately use the real certificate,” she said. Here is some key information about the Covid certificate and how it works.
1. How the Covid certificate works
The Covid certificate, available in English and Belgium’s three official languages (Dutch, French and German), is a document which is available digitally via the Covidsafe.be app (for iOS and Android) and on paper. The documnent contains a QR code with all the essential information needed to “travel safely and freely within the European Union,” according to the website. There are three different types of certificates that can prove that someone is Covid-safe, so people can have more than one certificate as they will receive a separate certificate for each test and vaccination shot. The three certificates are:
- A vaccination certificate which proves you have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus with an EMA-approved vaccine. In most cases you must have waited several weeks after the second injection before travel, as the protection is only optimal at that time. In Belgium the vaccination certificate is valid for one year from the day of vaccination.
- A test certificate proves you have taken a negative Covid-19 test, either a PCR-test taken no longer than 72 hours before departure or a rapid antigen test taken no longer than 48 hours before departure.
- A recovery certificate proves that you have recovered from Covid-19 folling a positive Covid-19 test. The recovery certificate is valid from 14 days after the positive test, and stays valid for 180 days from the time of the test.
The certificate includes data such as name, date of birth, date of issue, vaccination/ Covid-19 test or recovery information, and a unique QR code. No other health data is shared for privacy reasons and the countries that people visit are not allowed to keep the data so there is no central EU database that stores them.
2. Regulations for children
Whilst children under 6 years old do not need a certificate to travel, people aged 6 to 18 do. However, as children are currently not being vaccinated, they will only receive recovery and/or test certificates for now. Each EU Member State is free to set different conditions for travellers aged 6 to 18 and the conditions set by all countries and regions are available on the ReOpen EU website.
3. How to get a Covid certificate
There a several ways to get your Covid certificate:
- Install the CovidSafeBE-app. Select your language and answer three questions to find out which Covid certifications are available to you, then use your digital ID (such as via Itsme) to sign in and access the certificates to download and save them.
- Via the website covidsafe.be, where there are links to several government websites depending on which Region you live in. Here you can download the certificate.
- Request your vaccination certificate be sent to you by post by calling the helpdesk: Flemish residents: 078 78 78 50, Walloons: 071 31 34 93 and Brussels-Capital Region residents: 02 214 19 19. However, there will be a waiting period between ordering and receiving the certificates.
The Covid certificate is free of charge however for tests there may be a charge. As announced at the previous Consultative Committee, children between 6 and 17 and adults who have not yet had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated will receivee a full refund for up to two PCR-tests during July, August and September with a maximum of €55 per test.
4. Covid certificate availability
Vaccination certificates are available the morning after the vaccination centre enters the data into the Vaccinnet database, however there is no set time limit for this, so although it is usually done on the day of the vaccination it may be done a few days later. Test certificates are available one and a half hours after the lab enters the test data into the Sciensano national health institute database, usually around the time you are notified of your test results. Recovery certificates are also available one and a half hours after the lab enters the test results of a positive Covid test in the Sciensano database. However they only become valid 14 days later. Although the Covid certificate is available in Belgium from today but all EU Member States will only be able to use the certificate from 1 July. Check which rules apply in which countries via the website of Foreign Affairs or via reopen.europa.eu.
5. Travel outside the EU
The Covid certificate is only valid for travel within the EU, however the European Commission is working with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to ensure that it will also be recognised worldwide. Although experts believe it is likely that popular holiday destinations around the world will accept the certificate, travel outside the EU is still strongly discouraged this summer. Vaccination rates within the EU are alike and they have similar epidemiological situations, however this is not the case worldwide.