A local organisation, the International Covid-19 Travellers Compliance Monitoring Association (ICTCMA), a consortium comprising of Zimbabwean doctors, laboratory scientists, travel agents, travellers and business people has developed a tool that is set to address the growing burden of fake COVID-19 test certificates amongst travellers.
By Michael Gwarisa
The new tool dubbed the International Covid-19 Clearance Passport is a multi-entry personalized and securitized booklet that one can use in up to 45 entries across the globe.
Speaking to HealthTimes, Dr Masibongesonke Muloyiswa a founding member ICTCMA said they were using a ‘double-gated’ model in the testing and certification of international travellers that involves certified medical laboratories and registered medical professionals.
We have also developed an operating system for laboratories that generates a standardized certificate, with a standardized way of reporting and a host of security features including a QR code that health officials at ports of entry can scan using a simple smart phone to confirm the authenticity of the certificate.
“The issuing laboratory attaches the certificate onto a blank page of the traveller’s Covid-19 Passport which they then using for the purpose of international travel. Also, the Passport which one can get for as little as US5 has provision for documenting Covid-19 information in the event that one gets it in the future,” said Dr Muloyiswa.
He added that the screening process for international travellers should not be limited to sticking a nasopharyngeal swab up the nostrils but there should be at least temperature check and typical symptom screen for all travellers especially considering that majority of international travellers were the major drivers of the virus especially those from high burden countries.
“There are case reports of false negative Covid-19 PCR results whereby one would be having an elevated temperature with some typical symptoms and such cases should be followed up closely by medical practitioners, should have other investigations to compliment diagnosis of Covid-19 such CT scan of the Chest and have repeat Covid-19 tests where it’s necessary to do so.
“One misconception that is there in the current systems is that all travellers will test negative for Covid-19 pandemic, in as much as the majority will be negative, some will actually test positive during the process. The big question is for those who test positive how do they get cleared for travel?”
He also said there were stipulated regulations by the WHO on the isolation duration for those who test positive, depending on whether they are symptomatic or asymptotic and there were guidelines as to when they are said to have recovered.
“After the stipulated isolation period some may still test positive after repeat Covid-19 test, hence the guidance on who is considered to have recovered. It is fortunate that there are already community based Covid-19 task force members to closely follow up the positive cases and to offer them the much needed support during the isolation period and for these processes to be integrated and to avoid unnecessary inconveniences and confusion medical doctors should play a role in the process of testing and certification from the beginning.”
Major features of the International Covid-19 Passport include a Black covered passport-size booklet, front cover written ‘COVID-19 TRAVELLERS CLEARANCE PASSPORT’ in gold, with a clear ‘Global Travellers Health Agency logo’ also in gold in the middle and written at the bottom INTERNATIONAL in gold.
At the bottom of the letters will be a faint water mark of the Global Travellers Health Agency logo. Inside of front cover will have details of the traveller, including their passport size photo, name, gender, birth date, issue date, passport number and occupation. It will also have the logo for ICTCMA and the official’s signature. Pages2–45 will be for sticking the detailed globally standardized Covid-19 test confirmation Certificate.
“One of the things that we are advocating for as an Association is awareness for International travellers, they have to be cognizant of the fact that all these measures that are put in place by health officials are meant to protect them and their loved ones as they travel to their desired destinations and hence it is in bad taste to seek to use a fake Covid-19 certificate.
“Travellers would be more confident knowing that the person travelling next to them are carrying a standardized document and hence have gone through a similar standardized process of testing and certification as them. For a pandemic of the magnitude of Covid-19 we cannot afford to continue having uncoordinated screening mechanisms for travellers. As an association we call upon all progressive organizations to partner with us in awareness and to help us amplify our voices in advocacy for standardized models to assist in the fight against the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Dr Muloyiswa.