EU leaders pledged to develop Covid-19 digital certificates “as a matter of urgency” following a European Council Summit yesterday.

But members of the European Council gave no fresh details on the ‘digital green certificates’. At the same time, EU leaders agreed that restrictions on non-essential travel must remain “for the time being”.

In a statement, the Council said: “Preparations should start on a common approach to the gradual lifting of restrictions, to ensure that efforts are coordinated when the epidemiological situation allows.”

This will include taking forward “legislative and technical work on Covid-19 interoperable and non-discriminatory digital certificates . . . as a matter of urgency”.

But for now, the Council said: “The epidemiological situation remains serious, also in the light of the challenges posed by variants.

“Restrictions, including as regards non-essential travel, must therefore be upheld for the time being, taking into account the specific situation of cross-border communities.”

In a joint statement following the online summit, EU President Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Georges Michel said: “We have an epidemiological situation of great concern.

“We are at the start of a third wave in Europe. In many European member states, infections are on the rise again, mostly due to the variant B.1.1.7 that is now in every member state.”

However, they insisted: “Overall, we are on track to achieve our goal that this summer we want to have 70% of the adult population in the EU vaccinated.”

A separate statement by Members of the European Parliament, following agreement by MEPs to fast-track scrutiny of the certificate proposals, said: “A common vaccination certificate should facilitate travel and act as an alternative to PCR tests and quarantine requirements.”

However, Cláudia Monteiro de Aguiar, European Parliament rapporteur, said: “What is needed now is proper European coordination for testing regimes that do not impose additional costs on European citizens.”