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UPDATE 1-Swiss to launch COVID-19 certificates next week to ease travel

(Adds comment from finance minister, background on EU certificates)

ZURICH, June 4 (Reuters) - Switzerland will start distributing “COVID-19 certificates” next week to people who have been vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from infection as a way to ease travel in Europe, the government said on Friday.

It was still working out details of when a certificate -- available in hard copy and electronic format -- must be presented domestically and which restrictions may be lifted for bearers including those seeking to attend events.

“The goal of the certificate is clear: it should create freedom of movement by showing one has been vaccinated, recovered or tested. In particular it will make travel in the Schengen area simpler,” Finance Minister Ueli Maurer told a news conference in Bern, referring to the 26-member passport-free zone in Europe that includes Switzerland.

The EU reached a deal in May on similar COVID-19 certificates, with its scheme to be ready by July 1, the bloc has said.

An ordinance creating the legal foundation for launching the Swiss system takes effect on Monday, when the first certificates will start to roll out. They will be available to the general public by the end of June at the latest.

Switzerland’s certificates are designed to protect individuals’ privacy and includes apps for storing and checking the certificates that will be available free of charge in Google and Apple app stores.

Swiss officials said the system was compatible with European Union norms, and Maurer said he could not imagine that the EU would refuse to recognise it amid frosty relations over a draft bilateral treaty that Bern rejected last week.

Switzerland’s rising vaccinations and falling COVID-19 infections have prompted the nation to accelerate its economic re-opening. It is preparing for events with up to 5,000 people in attendance from July.

Nearly 700,000 people in Switzerland and tiny neighbour Liechtenstein have contracted COVID-19 and more than 10,000 have died of it since the pandemic began in early 2020. (Reporting by John Miller and Michael Shields)

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