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EXPLAINED: Can tourists get Austria’s Covid green pass to visit bars and events?

As travel picks up across Europe, there is a new challenge for tourists to navigate when visiting a new country - Covid-19 digital immunity cards.

EXPLAINED: Can tourists get Austria’s Covid green pass to visit bars and events?
A person has their Covid vaccination details checked. Photo: Photo by Mat Napo on Unsplash

Austria’s coronavirus digital immunity card – known as the ‘Green Pass’ – is now live, but is it also available for tourists to use?

The short answer is – no, not yet.

For example, people arriving from an EU country can already access the EU Digital COVID Certificate in Austria, so they don’t need to download and use Austria’s digital immunity card. 

‘3G Rule’: How to prove you have been vaccinated, tested or recovered from Covid in Austria

Plus, in the most cases an Austrian mobile phone number or citizen card is needed to use Austria’s Green Pass, which rules out tourists.

For now though, tourists in Austria from outside of the EU can use paper or digital copies of vaccination certificates, negative tests or proof of recovery to access 3G areas.

What does this mean for people travelling to Austria? Here’s what you need to know.

How does Austria’s Covid-19 digital immunity card work?

The Green Pass involves downloading an app and using a QR card to access places where the 3G rule (vaccinated, tested or recovered) applies.

Places include gastronomy businesses like bars and cafes, hotels and language classes. 

To access the Green Pass, users need a Handy Signatur (a digital ID connected to an Austrian mobile phone number) or an Austrian citizen card

READER QUESTION: Can I travel to Austria if I’ve had AstraZeneca’s ‘Covishield’ vaccine?

However, people can still use the paper version of 3G certificates, such as a vaccination card, proof of recovery or proof of a negative antigen test to access 3G areas.

While this must be an official document, it does not need to have a QR code to be valid. It needs to be either in German or in English in a latin script and must be produced on request from business owners or police. 

The Austrian Federal Government has also said the Green Pass will not become compulsory.

Can tourists from EU countries use the Green Pass?

The Digital COVID Certificate was launched by the EU on 1st July and it is recognised in Austria.

The EU version can be used in the same way as the Green Pass to show proof of 3G, but paper or digital copies of test and vaccination certificates from other EU countries are also accepted.

This means EU tourists don’t have to worry about accessing Austria’s Green Pass.

What about tourists from other countries?

Currently, only the Green Pass and the EU Digital COVID Certificate are recognised in Austria and can’t be accessed by people from outside of the EU.

Unlike in some other countries, you cannot simply arrive in Austria and do a test. This is because in the most cases to get the green pass you need an Austrian phone number, citizen card or e-card. 

EXPLAINED: What is Austria’s Covid-19 immunity card and how do I get it?

But the EU Digital COVID Certificate might be extended to travellers from third countries in the future, like the UK and the US.

In the meantime, the British government is currently working on making its NHS app compatible with the EU system.

The EU is also working with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to find a solution to recognising vaccine certificates without a QR code (an example is the US where certificates do not have a QR code).

If I can’t get the green pass, what does this mean for my trip to Austria? 

Fortunately, Austria still runs on paper – meaning you can show your paper evidence of vaccination, recovery etc when visiting bars, events and restaurants in Austria. 

This includes paper evidence of vaccination from abroad, such as in the United Kingdom. 

Several readers have told us they have also been able to show their NHS app at certain venues, although this is not official government policy. 

While this must be an official document, it does not need to have a QR code to be valid. 

It needs to be either in German or in English in a latin script and must be produced on request from business owners or police. 

Both the UK and Israeli governments are currently working with the EU on getting their apps accepted in Austria. 

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TRAVEL NEWS

EU extends Covid travel certificates until 2023

The EU has announced that its Covid travel certificate will be extended until 2023 - so what does this mean if you have a trip planned this year?

EU extends Covid travel certificates until 2023

Cleaning up the phone and thinking of getting rid of that Covid app? Just wait a minute. 

The European Union has decided to extend the use of EU Covid certificates by one year, until June 30th 2023. 

The European Commission first made the proposal in February as the virus, and the Omicron variant in particular, was continuing to spread in Europe. At that point it was “not possible to determine the impact of a possible increase in infections in the second half of 2022 or of the emergence of new variants,” the Commission said. 

Now tourism is taking off again, while Covid cases are on the rise in several European countries.

So the EU has taken action to ensure that travellers can continue using the so-called ‘digital green certificates’ in case new restrictions are put in place after their initial deadline of June 30th, 2022. 

What is the EU ‘digital green certificate’?

If you have travelled within the EU in the last year, you have probably already used it.

On 1st July 2021, EU countries started to introduce the ‘digital green certificate’, a Covid pass designed by the European Commission to facilitate travel between EU member states following months of restrictions.

It can be issued to EU citizens and residents who have been vaccinated against Covid, have tested negative or have recovered from the virus, as a proof of their health status. 

Although it’s called a certificate, it isn’t a separate document, it’s just a way of recognising all EU countries’ national health pass schemes.

It consists of a QR code displayed on a device or printed.

So if you live in an EU country, the QR code issued when you were vaccinated or tested can be scanned and recognised by all other EU countries – you can show the code either on a paper certificate or on your country’s health pass app eg TousAntiCovid if you’re in France or the green pass in Italy. 

Codes are recognised in all EU 27 member states, as well as in 40 non-EU countries that have joined the scheme, including the UK – full list here.

What does the extension of certificates mean? 

In practice, the legal extension of the EU Covid pass does not mean much if EU countries do not impose any restrictions.

It’s important to point out that each country within the EU decides on its own rules for entry – requiring proof of vaccination, negative tests etc so you should check with your country of destination.

All the EU certificate does is provide an easy way for countries to recognise each others’ certificates.

At present travel within the EU is fairly relaxed, with most countries only requiring negative tests for unvaccinated people, but the certificate will become more relevant again if countries impose new measures to curb the spread of the virus. 

According to the latest data by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, countries such as France, Portugal and parts of Italy and Austria are in the red again. 

The EU legislation on the certificate neither prescribes nor prohibits such measures, but makes sure that all certificate holders are treated in the same way in any participating country. 

The EU certificate can also be used for access to venues such as bars and restaurants if countries decided to re-impose health or vaccines passes on a domestic basis.

So nothing changes?

In fact, the legislation introduces some changes to the current certificates. These include the clarification that passes issued after vaccination should reflect all doses administered, regardless of the member state where the inoculation occurred. This followed complaints of certificates indicating an incorrect number of vaccine doses when these were received in different countries.

In addition, new rules allow the possibility to issue a certificate of recovery following an antigen test and extend the range of uthorised antigen tests to qualify for the green pass. 

To support the development and study of vaccines against Covid, it will also be possible to issue vaccination certificates to people participating in clinical trials.

At the insistence of the European Parliament, the Commission will have to publish an assessment of the situation by December 31st 2022 and propose to repeal or maintain the certificate accordingly. So, while it is extended for a year, the certificate could be discontinued earlier if it will no longer be consider necessary. 

The European parliament rapporteur, Spanish MEP Juan Fernando López Aguilar, said: “The lack of coordination from EU governments on travel brought chaos and disruption to the lives of millions of Europeans that simply wanted to move freely and safely throughout the EU.

“We sincerely hope that the worst of the pandemic is far behind us and we do not want Covid certificates in place a day longer than necessary.”

Vaccination requirements for the certificate

An EU certificate can be issued to a person vaccinated with any type of vaccine, but many countries accept only EMA-approved vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Novavax, Valneva and Janssen) – if you have been vaccinated with another vaccine, you should check the rules on the country you are travelling to.  

Certificates remain valid for 9 months (270) days following a complete vaccination cycle – so if you had your vaccine more than nine months ago you will need a booster in order to be considered fully vaccinated.

There is no requirement for a second booster, so if you have had a booster you remain ‘fully vaccinated’ even if your booster was administered more than 9 months ago. 

As of 1st March 2022, EU countries had issued almost 1.2 billion EU Covid certificates, of which 1.15 billion following vaccination, 511 million as a result of tests and 55 million after recovery from the virus. 

France, Italy, Germany, Denmark and Austria are the countries that have issued the largest number of EU Covid certificates. 

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