July 28, 2021

Fact Check. Digital certificate still does not allow you to fly back to Portugal? – Observer

In recent days, reports have multiplied from Portuguese people who were required to take a screening test for the new coronavirus to return to the country. “The Portuguese Digital Vaccination Certificate serves to enter Spain but not to return to Portugal”, writes João Caetano Dias, leader of the Liberal Initiative, on Twitter. At a time when around half a million digital certificates have been issued by the Portuguese authorities — and when this document already serves as free transit for internal travel —, is a test still required to enter national territory?

First, it is important to clarify what is at stake in the Government’s latest decision on digital certificates. In the week before the second siege of the Lisbon Metropolitan Area, on the 26th and 27th of June, the Minister of State and of the Presidency reported something new compared to the previous week. “We maintain the ban on movement to and from the Lisbon Metropolitan Area on weekends [mas] we have included, however, the possibility of leaving or entering the AML with a negative test or digital certificate”, said Mariana Vieira da Silva last Thursday.

Testing negative for the new coronavirus (PCR or antigen), being considered clinically recovered from Covid-19, or having a digital certificate attesting to being vaccinated with one of the vaccines validated by European health authorities against the disease that caused the pandemic — these were the conditions required by the Government so that anyone could “break through” the siege of Greater Lisbon on this second weekend in which the measure was in force (in another plan, this certificate also made it possible to attend baptisms and weddings, at events with more than 500 people inside, or a thousand people outside).

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Almost simultaneously with the announcement of this hypothesis, there were reports of Portuguese with a flight scheduled to Lisbon who were unable to return to the country without undergoing a new test, despite having already been vaccinated (with one or two doses, depending on the managed trademark) against Covid-19 and have requested the digital certificate attesting to this condition.

In some of the cases made public on Twitter, there were those who said they had been forced to postpone their departure for Lisbon for 24 hours while waiting for the test result in Tenerife. In another report that came to the attention of the Observer, a TAP passenger tried to board with only the vaccination certificate, but he was only allowed on the plane after proving that he had tested negative for Covid-19.

So, yes, it is true that the vaccination certificate proves to be useless for a return to national territory — even though it is accepted by the authorities of some European countries at the moment of entry, as has been the case on trips to Spain, to give an example. But does that mean that something in this process is going differently than expected?

In truth no. The agreement between the various Member States pointed to the 1st of July as the date on which the digital certificate — attributed by vaccination, negative test or because it has already been recovered — would come into effect. This is what the European authorities say in this regard and this has also been the reference calendar for the Portuguese authorities.

“The Government also approved today [última quinta-feira] a decree-law that executes in our legal system and regulates the covid-19 digital certificate of the European Union”, underlined Mariana Vieira da Silva at the press conference after the last meeting of the Council of Ministers. But if Portugal chose to wait until July 1st to put the digital certificate into full operation — and accept the return to the country for holders of that document, without further requirement, for example — others began to explore this possibility earlier.

Austria, Czech Republic and Denmark. How digital certificates are used in everyday life in other EU countries

At the moment, countries like Austria, the Czech Republic and Denmark already require the certificate to access certain services within borders: dining out, entering museums or sleeping in a hotel are options only for those in possession of a certificate, such as the Observer recently counted. As already mentioned, Spain accepted the presentation of the document as the only criterion for entering the country by plane (to cross the border by land, there is no prerequisite).

Yes, it is true that the digital vaccination certificate is not currently used to board a flight to Portugal — although it is possible to travel to some destinations outside the country only with the certificate.

On July 1st, the system that is at the base of the certificate should come into full force in Portugal (as had been agreed between the Member States of the European Union and some other countries outside the common space), and it will be possible to return with the presentation of that document.

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