Africa: AU Member States Adopt Digital Covid Certificates

African Union Flag.

African Union member states will from this month start using digital Covid-19 certificates as one way of eliminating travel restrictions that were occassioned by outbreak of coronavirus.

In the new digital application from Econet Wireless and PanaBios which was certified by AU and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) will assist travellers to comply with Covid-19 travel protocols and share vital information to end double testing across the continent.

The application will also share information about the latest travel restrictions and entry requirements applicable to the entire stretch of passengers' journey across Africa.

This happens as the AU works closely with the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) secretariat to reduce number of non-trade barriers in the wake of implementation of African free trade.

The AU has already notified all its members on the new applications for the simplified health-related immigration processing for travellers and port officials to ensure the continent continues to control the spread of Covid-19.

The applications power the Trusted Travel Portal contain information about the latest travel restrictions and entry requirements, a database of authorised laboratories and vaccination compliance material.

The mobile-based global health information applications are powered by secure blockchain technology and also carry information about the Africa CDC mutual recognition protocol for Covid-19 testing, pre-entry and exit requirements but most importantly, a traveller's test results.

While launching the portal early this month, Dr John Nkengasong, the Africa CDC director said there was a need for Africa to open up its economies by allowing cross-border movements too hastily. "When we talk about easing the lockdown of economies and border crossings, it's all about people. It's about how easily we can facilitate the movement of people while at the same time ensuring critical public health measures are in place," said Dr Nkengasong.

Remain vigilant

Although Africa has had fewer Covid-19 infections and deaths than most other continents, World Health Organisation (WHO) regional director for Africa Dr Matshidiso Moeti said African member states should remain vigilant.

"The downward trend we have seen in Africa over the past two months is undoubtedly a positive development and speaks to the robust and decisive public health measures taken by governments across the region," said Dr Moeti.

This week, Kenya joined other AU member states in using the application where all inbound and outbound travellers are now required to present digitally verified proof of a negative Covid-19 test, the Health ministry has announced.

In line with the Africa CDC Trusted Traveller (TT) initiative, an online system designed to authenticate and verify travellers' Covid-19 certificates, no Kenyan laboratory will issue Covid-19 certificates without Trusted Travel codes.

In a statement by Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe, the digital verification codes will ensure integrity of presented certificates, which until Monday were presented on printed paper and were susceptible to forgery.

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