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EU launches COVID-19 digital pass gateway with 7 countries

The EU has launched a COVID-19 ‘digital pass’ system that will allow authorities to verify COVID-19 test or vaccination status across the region. Seven member countries, including Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia and Poland, have already passed technical tests and can issue and verify certificates voluntarily starting Tuesday. More nations are expected to join the gateway as it nears the July 1 launch date.

The idea here is to create a single system for verifying EU citizens’ COVID-19 status, whether they’ve been vaccinated, recently tested negative, or recovered from the virus. The certificates will be verified as the citizens try and cross borders within the EU to help facilitate safer travel. 

The pass uses QR codes and digital signatures, though paper-based certificates can also be issued to those without access to a digital device. The entire system is verified using public-key cryptography to prevent falsification.

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Regionwide implementation 

According to the European Commission, since May 10, 22 EU countries have successfully tested the gateway. Apart from the seven aforementioned countries, others have opted to join in only when all functions are deployed nationwide. 

The regulations will apply from July 1, but there will be a six week phasing-in period to give member nations additional time to get everything up and running. This could mean that the system could be implemented by the end of this summer, cancelling out EU lawmaker’s plan of getting the gateway totally implemented by June.

Created by Kolja21 via Wikimedia Commons

Administrative authorities in respective EU nations will be responsible for issuing the certificates to individuals. Citizens can obtain said certificates from COVID test centres, local health authorities, or online national portals. 

According to the Commission, there’s exchange or retainment of personal data during the certificate verification process. The signature keys for the verification are stored on servers at a national level which can be accessed via the gateway by verification apps developed by the nations themselves.

The Commission has also developed example apps for issuing, storing and verifying these certifications. The source code for these examples is available on GitHub, and 12 member nations have already used this code. 

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