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[LISTEN] South Africa’s Impending Digital Vaccine Certificates

Sep 13, 2021

Umm Muhammed Umar

The deputy editor of Business Insider South Africa, Phillip de Wet, spoke to Radio Islam about the country’s pending digital vaccine certificates. South Africa does not have digital vaccine certificates yet.

De Wet said that the digital certificates have gained importance since President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke about them in his address to the nation on Sunday night. The President spoke about the vaccine passports for internal use. De Wet said that the certificates will become fairly important in the near future, when they will be required to gain entry into public spaces, such as stadiums.

There is very little known at this point as to how the digital vaccine certificates will look, and how they are to work. De Wet said that the Department of Health has been has been communicating with the World Health Organization. The WHO has been trying to standardize the digital certificate systems, partially so that travellers could be verified at border agencies.

Apparent to the eye of the holder, the certificate would carry details such as one’s name, identity number, and date of birth. It will also show which vaccines one has received and on what dates they had been administered, the batch number and name of the manufacturer. De Wet warned that the certificates could be revoked. There will be people verifying them electronically, and De Wet said, “so there’ll be a hopefully cryptographically secure process where QR codes that you provide can be checked against the central server and this can be tracked to be a valid certificate.” He added that, however, some people would just look at a display on your smartphone or a printed-out version. The World Health Organization is quite concerned about what happens if certificates are found to have been fraudulently issued. Some vaccines may not be acceptable for entry into certain countries either, or even entry into any public space.

According to the Minister of Heath, the digital vaccine certificates could be issued as early as next week, and at the latest before October, which is still in the very near future. However, De Wet said, “this is something that has to happen at significant scale, and there has to be quite a lot of infrastructure behind it, so we are concerned that there could be delays.” He expressed further concerns that very little detail is being shared about the rationale behind the digital certificates. He also doubted that the system would be established within the time frame given.

Meanwhile South Africans are travelling with great difficulty. De Wet said that there are lengthy delays at borders. Countries are trying to check against the vaccine cards that people take with them. He said letters also can be issued, but that these were difficult to get. you know it’s very hard to get those. De Wet added that countries around the world that are open for travellers, do understand the difficulty nevertheless, as South Africa is not the only country that doesn’t have a system in place yet. However, according to De Wet, various countries are demanding an administratively acceptable system, which means a cryptographically secure digital certificate. He said, “We’re not going to get away with not having them much longer.”

The South Africa government had previously said that taking a vaccine was not mandatory. Regarding the legality of preventing people from entering a public space, for example, a mall, if they didn’t have a vaccine certificate, De Wet said that there would be legal challenges. He said that the law will develop quite rapidly when people begin to challenge what the legal experts say. One has the right to refuse access to a private space, which, according to De Wet, one does have if you have good cause. However, conflict arises when those rights come into conflict with the rights of people access possibly important places and services, such as Home Affairs. He said if one is able to access Home Affairs services, but unable to enter its offices due to being unvaccinated, that effectively amounts to being excluded, which would be unconstitutional.

 

 

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