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COVID-19

EU Digital COVID certificate goes live a month early

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The EU Gateway for COVID certificates went live in seven European countries on 1 June, a month before the deadline of 1 July.

Member states having successfully tested the EU Gateway in May can now connect to it. National authorities can begin issuing certificates on a voluntary basis.

Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said: “The timely preparation will allow the full system to be up and running by 1 July – when the proposal enters into application and the EU will be on time to open up again this summer.”

What is the EU Gateway?

The EU Gateway certifies and protects the security features contained in the QR codes of all certificates, such as the digital signature key.

This way, citizens and institutions can make sure that the certificates are authentic.

For those concerned with data protection, the certificate holder’s health information does not pass through the EU Gateway when entering another member state. Only the authenticity and validity of the certificate are verified.

Where can I use my EU Digital COVID Certificate?

European countries which have already begun issuing the first Digital COVID Certificates are Bulgaria, Czechia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Croatia, and Poland.

The EU Digital COVID Certificate will become available in all EU member states on 1 July, according to the European Commission’s timeline.

After the EU Digital COVID certificate enters into application throughout the EU, there will be a six-week phase-in period during which other COVID pass formats can be used throughout the European Union, until 12 August.

How does the European COVID pass work?

The certificate will be available to citizens who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, or have recently received a negative test result, or have recovered from COVID-19.

In the case of vaccinated individuals, the European Commission states that certificates “would be limited to vaccines that have received EU-wide marketing authorization.” An updated list of authorized and pending vaccines is available on Covid Pass Certificate.

In the case of those who are protected against the disease after being infected, their immunity is considered valid for up to six months.

Vaccinated and recovered holders will be exempted from travel-related testing or quarantine.

What does the EU Digital COVID Certificate look like?

The EU Digital COVID Certificate can be issued in paper or digital format.

It contains the holder’s name and date of birth, the certificate’s date of issuance, information about the holder’s vaccine, COVID test, or recovery and a unique digital signature key.

The COVID certificate is not a substitute for a travel document. Holders must also provide a passport or identity card.

COVID-19

EU Digital COVID Certificate - ‘A big step towards a safe recovery’

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Today (14 June), the presidents of the European Parliament, the Council of the EU and the European Commission attended the official signing ceremony for the Regulation on the EU Digital COVID Certificate, marking the end of the legislative process, writes Catherine Feore.

Portugal Prime Minister Antonio Costa said: “Today, we are making a big step towards a safe recovery, to recover our freedom of movement and to boost economic recovery. The digital certificate is an inclusive tool. It includes people who have recovered from COVID, people with negative tests and vaccinated people. Today we are sending a renewed sense of confidence to our citizens that together we will overcome this pandemic and to enjoy travel again, safely and freely across the European Union.”

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “On this day 36 years ago, the Schengen Agreement was signed, five member states at that time decided to open their borders to one another and this was the beginning of what today is for many, many citizens, one of the biggest achievements of Europe, the possibility to travel freely within our union. The European digital COVID certificate reassures us of this spirit of an open Europe, a Europe without barriers, but also a Europe that is slowly but surely opening up after most difficult time, the certificate is a symbol of an open and digital Europe.”

Thirteen member states have already started to issue EU Digital COVID Certificates, by 1 July the new rules will be applicable in all EU states. The Commission has set up a gateway that will allow member states to verify that the certificates are authentic. Von der Leyen also said that the certificate was also attributable to the success of the European vaccination strategy. 

EU countries will still be able to impose restrictions if they are necessary and proportionate to safeguard public health, but all states are asked to refrain from imposing additional travel restrictions on the holders of the EU Digital COVID Certificate

EU Digital COVID Certificate

The aim of the EU Digital COVID Certificate is to facilitate safe and free movement inside the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic. All Europeans have the right to free movement, also without the certificate, but the certificate will facilitate travel, exempting holders from restrictions like quarantine.

The EU Digital COVID Certificate will be accessible for everyone and it will:

  • Cover COVID-19 vaccination, test and recovery;
  • be free of charge and available in all EU languages;
  • be available in a digital and paper-based format, and;
  • be secure and include a digitally signed QR code.

In addition, the Commission committed to mobilizing €100 million under the Emergency Support Instrument to support member states in providing affordable tests.

The Regulation will apply for 12 months as of 1 July 2021.

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Mainstream media risks becoming a threat to public health

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In recent weeks the controversial claim that the pandemic might have leaked from a Chinese laboratory - once dismissed by many as a fringe conspiracy theory - has been gaining traction. Now, US President Joe Biden has announced an urgent investigation that will look into the theory as a possible origin of the disease, writes Henry St.George.

Suspicion first arose in early 2020 for obvious reasons, the virus having emerged in the same Chinese city as the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV), which has been studying coronaviruses in bats for over a decade. The laboratory is located just a few kilometres from the Huanan wet market where the first cluster of infections emerged in Wuhan.

Despite the glaring coincidence, many in the media and politics dismissed the idea outright as a conspiracy theory and refused to consider it seriously throughout the past year. But this week it has emerged that a report prepared in May 2020 by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California had concluded that the hypothesis claiming the virus leaked from a Chinese lab in Wuhan was plausible and deserved further investigation.

So why was the Lab Leak Theory overwhelmingly dismissed from the get go? There is no question that from the mainstream media’s perspective the idea was tarnished by association with President Donald Trump. Granted, skepticism of the President’s claims surrounding any given aspect of the pandemic would have been warranted at almost any stage. To put it euphemistically, Trump had shown himself to be something of an unreliable narrator.

During the course of the pandemic Trump dismissed the seriousness of COVID-19 repeatedly, pushed unproven, potentially dangerous remedies like hydroxychloroquine, and even suggested at one memorable press briefing that injecting bleach might help.

Journalists also reasonably feared similarities with the narrative of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, whereby vast threats were cited and assumptions granted to an antagonistic theory with too little evidence to back it up.

However, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that a general animus felt towards Trump by large swathes of the media brought about a large-scale dereliction of duty and failure to uphold objective standards of journalism as well as science. In reality the Lab Leak was never a conspiracy theory but a valid hypothesis all along.

Suggestions to the contrary by anti-establishment figures in China were also summarily quashed. As early as September 2020, the ‘Rule of Law Foundation’, connected with prominent Chinese dissident Miles Kwok, appeared on the title page a study that alleged the coronavirus was an artificial pathogen. Mr. Kwok’s long-standing opposition to the CCP was sufficient to ensure the idea was not taken seriously.

Under the pretense that they were combatting misinformation, the social media monopolies even censored posts about the lab-leak hypothesis. Only now – after almost every major media outlet as well as the British and American security services have confirmed that it is a feasible possibility – have they been forced to backtrack.

“In light of ongoing investigations into the origin of COVID-19 and in consultation with public health experts,” a Facebook spokesman said, “we will no longer remove the claim that COVID-19 is man-made or manufactured from our apps.” In other words, Facebook now believes that its censorship of millions of posts in the preceding months had been in error.

The consequences of the idea not having been taken seriously are profound. There is evidence that the lab in question may have been conducting what is called “gain of function” research, a dangerous innovation in which diseases are deliberately made more virulent as part of scientific research.

As such, if the lab theory is in fact true, the world has been deliberately kept in the dark about the genetic origins of a virus that has killed over 3.7m people to date. Hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved if the key properties of the virus and its propensity to mutate had been understood sooner and better.

The cultural ramifications of such a discovery cannot be overstated. If the hypothesis is true - the realization will soon set in that the world’s fundamental mistake was not insufficient reverence for scientists, or inadequate respect for expertise, but not enough scrutiny of mainstream media and too much censorship on Facebook. Our main failure will have been the inability to think critically and acknowledge that there is no such thing as absolute expertise.

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COVID-19: ‘If voluntary licensing fails, compulsory licensing has to be a legitimate tool’ von der Leyen

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MEPs will vote on whether the EU should ask the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines. Parliament will vote on a resolution tomorrow to waive COVID-19 vaccine patents.

During the May plenary session, the European Parliament called on the Commission to ask the World Trade Organisation (WTO) to waive intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, an initiative proposed by South Africa and India and seemingly supported more recently by the new Biden administration in the US. 

Opinion among MEPs is sharply divided with some calling for a waiver, while others argue that it could be counterproductive and is a “false good idea” that would not speed up the provision of vaccines and would harm innovation. Instead, they argued the Commission should push for voluntary licensing alongside knowledge- and technology-sharing as well as ramping up production facilities in, among other regions, Africa.

On the G20 Global Health Summit that was recently convened by Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and von derl Leyen. Von der Leyen outlined the three main points made in the resulting declaration, she said: “First of all, [the G20] committed to boosting production capacity in low and middle income countries. Then, of course, the second topic tackling those bottlenecks in the supply chains, for the seamless flow of vaccines and components. Finally,  we committed to investing in a global surveillance and early warning system.” 

On the TRIPS waiver Ursula von der Leyen said: “The question of the TRIPS waiver has been raised recently, we said we are open for discussions. Now just four weeks later, we have put forward a new global trade initiative at the WTO aiming to deliver more equitable access to vaccines and therapeutics… I think intellectual property has to be protected, protected, because it is the idea behind the breakthrough. And it retains the incentives for innovation in research and development. And of course, voluntary licenses are the most effective way to facilitate expanding production. 

“At the G20 Global Health summit reaffirmed this assessment, however, and it’s a big however, in a global emergency like this, like this pandemic, if voluntary licensing fails, compulsory licensing has to be a legitimate tool to scale up production. And this is why together with WTO, we want to clarify and simplify the use of compulsory licensing in times of national emergency. We have discussed this proposal yesterday with the WTO.

“Europehas also committed one billion euro to create manufacturing hubs in different regions in Africa, with African partners and our industrial partners.”

In the previous debate MEPs on both sides criticised the US and the UK for hoarding doses to excess at a time when poorer countries have little or no access to jabs. Alone among its peers in the developed world, the EU has already exported roughly half of its production to countries in need, they added.

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