Silently and without fanfare, government launches Covid-19 online vaccination certificate

05 October 2021 - 16:07
By TimesLIVE
Without a public announcement, the health department has launched the South African Covid-19 Vaccine Certificate System. Stock photo.
Image: 123rf/dobledphoto Without a public announcement, the health department has launched the South African Covid-19 Vaccine Certificate System. Stock photo.

Less than a week ago, President Cyril Ramaphosa promised that digital vaccination certificates would be available “soon” — and it appears that on Tuesday morning this promise was met.

Without fanfare and with no public or media announcement, the health department launched the “South African Covid-19 Vaccine Certificate System”.

A notice on the website states that only those who are fully Covid-19 vaccinated can receive their digital certificate. A digital QR code will be generated after certain details are provided, and this can be downloaded or printed.

“The QR code generated is not intended to be readable by the public, it is meant to be used by entities requiring to verify the card’s validity, using a Vaccine Certificate System inbuilt QR scanner which will be available in the near future,” the website states.

While some posted on social media that they had received their QR codes, many users were met with error messages while going through the process. 

Attempts to get comment from the health department regarding the launch were unsuccessful. This story will be updated once comment is received.

On Thursday last week, when he moved the country to Covid-19 lockdown level 1, Ramaphosa spoke of the digital vaccine certificates.

“The department of health will soon be rolling out a vaccination certificate, which will provide a secure and verifiable proof of vaccination. It can be used to facilitate travel, access to establishments and gatherings and other forms of activity that require proof of vaccination status.

“Our approach is informed by World Health Organisation guidelines and is in line with international best practice. Streamlining and standardising proof of vaccination will also go a long way towards getting a number of international travel restrictions both from and into our country eased.

“Getting vaccinated is not only about protecting yourself and those around you. It is also about preventing new and more dangerous variants from emerging, as the virus is able to spread and mutate in unvaccinated populations,” he said.

In September, health minister Dr Joe Phaahla said the aim of digital vaccine certificates was not to punish anybody.

Once vaccination passports — or certificates, as the health department prefers — were available, Phaahla said they would allow the opening up of more economic, recreational and religious activities.

“The aim of the vaccination certificate is not to punish anybody, it's to protect each other. The aim is to make sure that we can come with a policy which ensures people who are vaccinated can access a lot more facilities.

“Our team led by acting director-general Dr Nicholas Crisp is working very hard to make sure that we can present [an implementation plan] for the certificate to the national coronavirus command council in the next 10 days.”

Phaahla said the health department would need the assistance of colleagues in the home affairs and sport and recreation departments to implement the certificate.

The new document would not be needed to gain access to essential and emergency services, he said. But the private sector would be free to use it to control access to businesses.

“Salons might say, 'no vaccinations, no weaves', but it will not be because it is a government rule,” he said.