South Africa’s Covid-19 vaccine certificates are getting an upgrade

Health minister Dr Joe Phaahla has announced an ‘upgraded’ Covid-19 certificate for South Africa, which will be officially be introduced next week.

In a media briefing on Friday morning (12 November), Phaahla said that the change will see the QR codes embedded on the digital certificates ‘go live’. This will allow third-party groups to use the QR codes to verify the validity of the info on the card, he said.

The certificate is currently only available to people fully vaccinated against Covid-19, with users required to fill in their contact details, including their ID number and Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS) code.

Upon entering these details, users will be sent a one-time PIN confirming the authenticity of the information they have provided. The PIN can then be entered to access the final, digital Covid-19 vaccine certificate.

The digital pass system can be used to show vaccination status to facilitate travel, access to establishments, gatherings and other forms of activity.

The opening up of the QR code to third parties will allow private businesses and the government to better monitor who has or has not been vaccinated and could pave the way for the further reopening of sports and other events in South Africa.

It could also make it easier to monitor areas where mandatory Covid-19 vaccination policies have been put in place.

The Department of Health previously said that further upgrades to the certificates will be rolled out in a phased manner – including the scannable QR code and digital (cryptographic) signatures.

Preparing for the fourth wave

While South Africa’s Covid-19 infections remain low, Phaahla said that the government was now preparing for an expected fourth wave of cases.

He added that the government is doing everything possible to make sure it is delayed and that when it comes, it has far less impact.

“The health facilities’ readiness in preparation for the fourth wave is addressing areas such as availability of oxygen supply, of which our bulk supplier has already finalised contingency plans to make sure that we do have enough supply of oxygen,” he said.

Phaahla said that over the last four weeks, the Covid-19 infections in the country have remained very stable, with daily infection rates keeping at a very low base of between 200 and 500 new infections per day.

“The positivity rate also remained at an average of 1%, as of yesterday we had relatively high just over 16,000 active cases, a reduced number compared to the peak of the third wave.”

“The number of patients in hospitals remains relatively high but lower than the peak of the third wave, just over 3,000 patients remaining in hospitals with just over 270 in high care and over 400 in ICU,” he said.

On Thursday (11 November), South Africa reported 356 new cases of Covid-19, taking the total reported to 2,924,978.

Deaths have reached 89,452 (+17), while recoveries have climbed to 2,819,130, leaving the country with a balance of 16,396 active cases. The total number of vaccines administered is 23,684,440 (+143,893).

Read: New e-visa system planned for South Africa – what you should know