Legislative amendments concerning COVID-19 certificates passed

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The amendments to the Norwegian Control of Communicable Diseases Act that allow use of the COVID-19 certificate in Norway have been passed, and will enter into effect today.

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The purpose of the new provisions is to have a system for secure and verified documentation of a person’s vaccination status, recovery from COVID-19, and test results. The amendments will also facilitate implementation of the EU's Digital Green Certificate Regulation and grant the Ministry of Health and Care Services the authority to regulate the use of COVID-19 certificates through regulations when necessary.

‘It is important for me to stress that the COVID-19 certificate will not be used to create barriers. It will be used to ease measures. For example, it can be used to allow people to attend larger events than can be permitted without a COVID-19 certificate or to open services that otherwise would be closed’, says Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

‘Domestically, we will use the COVID-19 certificate in step 3 of the reopening, and we will provide more information about this next week’, she continues.

The use of COVID-19 certificates will cease when the rates of infection and vaccination indicate that restrictions are no longer necessary. The COVID-19 certificate will not be used permanently or long-term in Norway, and it has been proposed that the Norwegian rules be limited to 6 months. 

Personal data
The COVID-19 certificate has two display options: a simple one for use in most cases in Norway and a more detailed one that will mostly be used for border crossing in the EU and the EEA. The COVID-19 certificate has QR codes that can be checked.

The reason that the COVID-19 certificate has two display options is data protection. This means that users will not need to surrender more data than necessary. When used in Norway, it will rarely be necessary to show any other information than the fact that the certificate is valid.

The pan-European solution will probably be ready at the beginning of July.

‘The police will begin checking COVID-19 certificates issued in Norway at border crossing points already from 3 pm today, Friday 11 June. This will reduce the risk of imported cases of COVID-19’, states Monica Mæland.

The COVID-19 certificate can be found at helsenorge.no, and may be downloaded to the user’s mobile phone or printed.

Expanded EU section
‘The EU needs more information when borders are crossed, and there will be a need to distinguish between a person's vaccination status, whether they have had COVID-19, and their most recent test status. It will be necessary, for example, to display the name of the vaccine, the number of doses, and the vaccination dates. We are therefore designing an expanded section of the COVID-19 certificate for that purpose’, points out Minister of Health and Care Services Bent Høie.

The Norwegian Government still advises against all non-essential travel to all countries. This travel advice will be in effect until 1 July and will be reviewed before then. Any person who chooses to travel must familiarise themself with the quarantine and infection control rules for the country they are travelling to. This will vary from country to country.

Free testing
The COVID-19 certificate builds on the assumption that tests can be equated with vaccination or recovery from COVID-19. However, a test result only provides a snapshot, and cannot always be assigned the same weight as protected status. For example, a test does not qualify for exemption from travel quarantine.

‘Introduction of the COVID-19 certificate will require extensive test capacity. We will therefore establish a system for state funding of testing performed by private players. Rapid antigen tests will be used, and the results must be registered in MSIS, so that they are displayed on people's COVID-19 certificates. Tests must be free to all’, says Mr Høie.

Private players will need to meet certain criteria in order to qualify for reimbursement. Among other things, the test results must be registered in MSIS. Private players who meet the criteria will be reimbursed a set price per test. The system will be operational from step 3 of the reopening.