Iceland is the first country in Europe to issue and recognise COVID-19 vaccination certificates, which it hopes will allow vaccinated individuals to travel freely within its borders and abroad.
Iceland currently requires a minimum five-day quarantine for international arrivals. Now, those with documentation showing they have received the full course of COVID-19 vaccines will be able to skip quarantine.
All travellers in the EU and approved third party countries who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 will have restriction-free entry, beginning from 1 May. Those who present an international certificate of vaccination will not need to undergo testing or quarantine measures.
Whether Iceland’s certificates are actually recognised will be up to other countries.
Iceland expects to vaccinate a majority of adults by mid-2021, months ahead of its neighbours.
The introduction of vaccination certificates is controversial as there is no evidence that available vaccines prevent a person from carrying the virus and infecting others.
For Iceland’s certificates to matter, they will need to get the EU to accept them. The European Commission is in favour but several EU countries are wary.
Although Spain has not yet launched a vaccination passport, the authorities are in favour. Italy agrees in principle but France is very reluctant to accept them. In Germany, the authorities oppose a lifting of restrictions for the vaccinated population alone. In Belgium, taking part in certain activities only with the possession of a vaccination passport is also out of question. Luxembourg opposes any certificate idea which would have an impact on the rights of a person.
As for travelling, Iceland is awaiting the outcome of discussions at the European level and at the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Poland does not currently plan such a passport but has launched an application for smartphones, “Vaccinated”, which allows its holder to avoid quarantine upon entry into the country.
While international health regulations allow countries to request proof of vaccination against certain diseases, such as yellow fever, COVID-19 is not currently among them. Expanding that list would require a recommendation from the WHO. The WHO supports the principle of vaccination certificates to monitor campaigns in countries.
Denmark, Sweden and Israel may soon join Iceland in rolling out their own vaccination passport systems.
However, it is too soon to say whether it is safe for the vaccinated to be travelling across borders.