José Luis was infected with coronavirus five weeks ago. With a dose of the vaccine, he had some symptoms and the diagnosis was confirmed at his health center in the Community of Madrid with an antigen test. Once he has recovered, he has tried unsuccessfully to download the COVID certificate: “In the application of the virtual health card it only tells me that I do not meet the criteria.” His case is not unique.
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People who have had an antigen test instead of a PCR cannot request the EU Digital COVID Certificate, the so-called ‘COVID passport’, which allows you to travel through the European Union and some places in Spain. In order to obtain the certificate, it is required that the person requesting it has been vaccinated against COVID-19, has “performed a test with a negative result”, or has passed the disease. The problem comes when a person has been infected with coronavirus but in their autonomous community they do not offer the possibility of diagnosis by PCR. In this case, in order to obtain European accreditation, the disease is not considered to have passed. In addition, other people point out that they cannot be vaccinated either because they must wait six months, although in some communities they are already reducing this period.
“Leaves us in limbo”
Some Spanish cities required this certificate for activities such as nightlife or hospitality, but after the rulings against requiring the document in four autonomous communities – Andalusia, Cantabria, the Canary Islands and Galicia – and Melilla, the ‘COVID passport’ only remains in force in the Balearic Islands. However, it is still necessary to be able to move around the European Union. This becomes a great inconvenience for people like José Luis, who has to leave Spain: “It is not that I want to go to the beach on vacation, that is not the problem, it is that for work I will have to travel through Europe”, Explain.
He tried to find out and call health centers, the telephone service in his community, and through the Madrid website. The latter specifies that “by consensus, of all the countries of the European Union, this type of certificate is only issued if COVID-19 has been diagnosed by PCR test. The Community of Madrid does not share the criteria, but it is not competent to modify it. ” This decision, as indicated by the affected resident in Madrid, “leaves us in a limbo in which I am equated with people who have not been vaccinated and who have not had the disease.”
From the telephone numbers they offered him the possibility of putting a claim on the website, while at the health center they told him that he could try to speak with his doctor so that he could issue a document, different from the EU COVID Digital Certificate, that could serve as proof that the disease has passed. A measure similar to the one proposed to Cristina, who tested positive for antigens in Catalonia in June and has to travel to Italy in September: “I have been informed at the consulate and right now what they are strictly asking for is the ‘COVID passport ‘. In the event that the document does not serve them [que le expide su médico], the only solution is for me to do an antigen test or PCR every two days and send the photo to my health center so that I can have the European QR code available “, says the young woman. In the case of the Catalan community, it has also been reduced vaccination time to people who have already had the disease, which goes from six months to one, which will allow people who are in the same situation as Cristina to download the accreditation.
Júlia Fulquet, administrator of a health center in Catalonia, sends complaints from patients affected by this procedure: “Normally one person comes a day.” These medical reports, issued by “nursing or medicine” personnel, are also offered from his outpatient clinic. The text indicates that the patient was positive, and that “he has passed the quarantine as appropriate.” But Júlia warns that there is no certainty that the certificate of the center may be valid in other countries: “It is the most we can do,” adds the Catalan administration, who also reports other similar problems, such as what happens to people who they have received only one dose of the vaccine for having passed the disease, in which case they appear with the incomplete schedule in the European digital document.
“Unequal treatment in the right to free movement”
The Ombudsman, Francisco Fernández, has also spoken in this regard. On August 11, he sent a series of recommendations to the Ministry of Health to “improve” the ‘COVID passport’, as well as to “facilitate” its obtaining. There are also two types of complaints. “The Spanish vaccination certificate does not clearly and expressly state that people with a single dose, for having overcome the disease, or with two different doses of vaccines, have received a complete vaccination cycle.” And another type of complaint, the same one explained by José Luis and Cristina: that “the European Union Regulation does not recognize antigen tests or serological antibody tests to validate a contagion.” This means that it is not possible to “certify the recovery” to people who have not had PCR.
For the Ombudsman, the situation “may lead to unequal treatment for the exercise of the right to free movement of the affected persons,” while “the objective of these certificates is precisely to facilitate travel,” he continues. For this reason, it urges the European Commission to recognize these other coronavirus detection tests, and asks the autonomous communities to carry out PCR on people who have tested positive for antigens, so that these inequalities in the processing of COVID certificates.