In a month, it will not be possible to enter Austria and elsewhere with a Latvian Covid certificate

According to research by Neatkarīgā, the Covid-19 certificate is not eternal. Those who received the vaccination at the beginning of the year will not be able to, for example, enter Austria from October 1.
27.08.2021. Inga Paparde
 
©Inga Paparde

Several countries in the European Union have set an expiration date for the Covid-19 vaccination certificate. This means that at some point this certificate will no longer work.

For example, Austria has stipulated that a vaccination certificate will no longer be valid if 270 days have elapsed since receiving the vaccine, and there is a risk that a person holding such a certificate will no longer be able to benefit from it when traveling to or working in Austria. On the other hand, the Latvian authorities say they are not aware of this fact and explain that Latvia does not look at and has not set any expiry dates for the certificates.

Digital certificate as a perk that will be taken away

The Covid-19 digital certificate is proof that a person has been vaccinated against Covid-19, has done a Covid-19 test, or has recovered from Covid-19. These certificates can be viewed and downloaded, as well as printed on a special website. The Covid-19 certificate became relevant after the country imposed various restrictions on vaccinated and non-vaccinated people, allowing the first to use this certificate to attend various events and be in workplaces without masks. This vaccination or recovery certificate can also be used when traveling or going to work in another country so that you do not have to get tested for Covid-19.

The digital Covid-19 certificate issued in Latvia is also recognized in other European Union Member States. This is ensured by integration with the European digital Covid-19 certificate gateway, which exchanges information between the EU Member States on signatures contained in the QR codes of the valid certificates in order to verify the validity and authenticity of the certificate. The data is exchanged with those EU Member States that have joined the common system, and the data is kept up-to-date.

An expiration date for Covid-19 certificates

Although Covid-19 digital certificates work in a similar way in all EU countries, each country has the right to set its own criteria, which it takes into account. Examining the information for all EU countries, it can be concluded that the start date of the Covid-19 certificate is practically the same everywhere, i.e., 14 days after the second dose of the vaccine or one dose of the Janssen vaccine. Countries have also set common criteria for the digital certificate that proves recovery from Covid-19. These certificates are valid in all countries for 180 days after their issuance.

However, a number of countries have just added their own rules and criteria for the Covid-19 vaccination certificate, including an expiration date. This could come as a surprise to many residents, as such information cannot be found anywhere on Latvia's official websites.

Instead of the certificate, you have to pay for a Covid test

One of the countries that have determined the expiration date of the vaccination certificate is Austria. The information available to Neatkarīgā shows that the vaccination certificate will soon no longer be usable in that country, as it has an expiration date of 270 days from the date of vaccination, the date on which this certificate entered into force. Latvian citizens working in Austria say that their vaccination certificate will soon be revoked and they will no longer be able to use it. For example, if a person was vaccinated in January of this year, like doctors who were one of the first to be vaccinated, then in October this certificate will no longer be valid. Without a valid certificate, the only possibility to work in or enter the country will be a negative Covid-19 test, which must be paid for by the person, or a recovery certificate - but also provided that no more than 180 days have elapsed. People are quite devastated about this fact.

Austria, Estonia, Switzerland will not accept the certificates

The EU website, which contains official information on each country and its rules on digital certificates and other entry-related issues, confirms that there are already a number of countries in the EU that have set end dates for the digital certificate.

Austria has determined that the vaccination certificate is valid for 270 days after its issuance. Croatia has set a similar deadline.

In Denmark, on the other hand, the certificate is valid for 12 months, while Switzerland has 365 days, which is basically the same as in Denmark. Estonia has also set a validity period of one year. This means that if a person was vaccinated at the beginning of this year, the certificate will no longer be valid at the beginning of next year. In the case of digital certificates proving recovery from Covid-19, all countries are the same - a validity period of 180 days.

So far, most countries, like Latvia, have not set the certificate expiration date, but, to be completely safe, the criteria and possible changes must be viewed on each country's national Covid-19 website, as information is subject to change.

"We have no such information"

The National Health Service, which is responsible for questions related to the digital Covid-19 certificate, explained to Neatkarīgā that Latvia has not set any expiration date for the Covid-19 vaccination certificate. The data to be included in the vaccination certificate, in accordance with the current regulation on the time of validity, stipulates that the date of vaccination (date of receiving the jab) must be indicated on the vaccination certificate. And Latvia does just that.

It was difficult to obtain information on whether and how to receive this information on the expiration date of the vaccination certificate, as the information is not even available to our responsible authorities. "We do not have information that there are EU countries where the expiration date of the vaccination certificate has been set," said Evija Štālberga, a specialist of the National Health Service. However, the specialist later added that each country has the right to determine its own criteria for how they accept this digital certificate and, most likely, also has the right to determine the expiration date of the certificate. "Latvia has not set an expiration date for this certificate, therefore Latvia accepts certificates issued in Latvia and other European Union countries without any fixed expiration date, therefore, if a person entering Latvia from Austria has this certificate, it will be valid later as well, even if Austria will have set an expiration date in their country, ”said E. Štālberga.

If there will be a booster, things could change

After a discussion with the responsible authorities in Latvia, Neatkarīgā concludes that it is possible that some countries, following up-to-date information on vaccination, such as the duration of the vaccine efficiency, determine the expiration date of the certificate. It is clear from the National Health Service's explanation that if a country has set such a deadline, the person is in fact considered unvaccinated and can use other ways to prove his Covid-19 status when entering the country, such as a test. This is, of course, cumbersome. At present, the competent authorities also do not comment on whether and when booster vaccination could start, as people who wish to do so and work, for example, in the medical field and face the risks of Covid-19 on a daily basis, could be vaccinated and renew the certificate, which would be taken into account by the above countries.

"If there is a booster vaccination, then there will definitely be new certificates, but currently it is difficult to comment on this issue," admitted E. Štālberga. At present, the National Health Service and the Ministry of Health only recommend carefully researching the information on the websites of the countries before going, so as not to be turned back at the border because of an expired Covid-19 certificate.

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