EU Working on Contact-Tracing System for Cross-Border Travel

The European Union is working to create a digital contact-tracing system to let member states better track Covid-19 outbreaks as people travel across borders.

The Passenger Locator Form project adds to signs the EU wants to gradually restore travel after the pandemic brought it to a standstill and as economies including Greece and Spain prepare to welcome visitors with the summer holiday season approaching.

On Wednesday, the bloc’s executive arm will present a proposal for the introduction of digital certificates that will offer proof their holders have been vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from Covid and can thus travel without the need to be quarantined.

The effort to create a contact-tracing system was set in motion last fall, when the bloc’s leaders recommended creating a common passenger-locator form and urged all 27 member states to make an inter-operable digital version.

So far, three countries have linked directly to a common technology platform or connected through EU Healthy Gateways, a pre-existing network for coordinating responses to health threats, according to an EU working paper seen by Bloomberg.

The next steps include connecting the remaining countries, according to the document. Officials in Brussels are also seeking to make money available to the project and formulate EU law that provides a basis for transmitting the data across borders.

One question is whether passengers will need to submit digital locator-forms at each leg of travel or just once per trip, according to the working paper. Either would work, but it’s important for all systems to take the same approach to avoid loopholes, it said.

In parallel to the Passenger Locator Form project, a group of EU countries is also pushing for the abolition of the current blanket ban of incoming travel to the bloc, and its replacement with a targeted system that will allow trips from those who can prove they are vaccinated, no matter their residence.

EU leaders will discuss the reopening of the bloc’s battered economies next week, and a gauge of European travel and leisure stocks erased on Monday its pandemic losses, with some investors pricing in an eventual return to normalcy.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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