MEPs back COVID pass extension to June 2023

MEPs on Thursday voted to extend the use of the COVID-19 health pass until late June 2023.

The decision was approved with 432 votes in favour, 130 against and 23 abstentions and now needs to be backed by the European Council. 

Juan Fernando López Aguilar, president of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE), stressed to his fellow MEPs ahead of the vote that “the pandemic is not over” and argued that a “time-limited extension is reasonable”.

Among those who objected to the 12-month extension were Annalisa Tardino, from Italy’s League party, who said the measure is “harming the fundamental rights of our citizens”.

“We’re all back here in plenary, we’re all here voting in person, we’re not wearing any mask and we didn’t need a certificate,” she said to argue her case. 

The COVID pass was first rolled out in the EU in June 2021 as a means to reopen borders, businesses and events to the public ahead of the summer touristic season, crucial to many European economies. 

The pass attests to whether its holder has been fully vaccinated, has recently recovered from the disease or tested negative.

The majority of EU member states no longer require other EU citizens to show proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter their territory, but nine still do including Italy, Spain, France and Germany. A COVID pass is also required in some countries to access certain public places or large indoor events. 

The planned law approved by MEPs on Thursday would allow member states to grant test certificates based on new types of antigen assay tests and would require the Commission to assess whether the COVID pass is still “necessary and proportionate six months after its extension.”

“MEPs want to keep period in which the Regulation applies as short as possible and repeal it as soon as the epidemiological situation allows,” the parliament said in a statement.

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