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By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist

Vaccine certificate this week ‘good for tourism’

The Health spokesperson confirmed that SA was 'busy doing the final test on the system so that we go live this week without glitches'.

Amid the anticipated lifting of stringent travel restrictions on South Africa by the UK, the department of health on Monday said it would this week officially launch the vaccination certificate – expected to be a digital system, in line with international standards.

Without giving more details on the format of South Africa’s first vaccine certificate, health spokesperson Foster Mohale confirmed that a technical team was “busy doing the final test on the system so that we go live this week without glitches”.

Mohale said government would create a foolproof certificate which could be forged, “mindful of sensitive personal health information and countering any corruption”.

He expressed hope of the UK government soon changing its stance on South Africa after meeting its scientists.

House of Lords member and former anti-apartheid activist Lord Peter Hain told The Citizen: “I am hopeful, because it is logical and right to remove South Africa from the red list.”

In a letter to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Hain said: “The UK’s continued red-listing of South Africa has no justification whatsoever in science.

South Africa has only one variant in circulation, which is the same variant as in the UK: delta.

“Its scientific capabilities are world-leading, tests more people and publishes more data than any other African country.”

The SA tourism industry has welcomed the expected softening of stance by the UK, with Association of Southern African Travel Agents (Asata) chief executive officer Otto de Vries predicting the announcement would be made
on Thursday.

“What we are hearing from sources, there seems to be a high level of accuracy about the UK announcement,” said De Vries.

De Vries said Asata advocated for “a level of a globally recognised standard, simplicity and commonality in terms of how a lot of other markets are doing things.

“I don’t see an overnight rush for access for a vaccine passport – unless you need it.

“Those that are going to need it are people that want to travel abroad. Over time, you are likely to see more requests for people wanting to know what the vaccination code is and access to the data.”

Southern African Tourism Services Association CEO David Frost said: “We are bruised and battered, due to the consequence of the ban.

“If you take the period from February till the end of September, the World Travel and Tourism Council estimated that we lost R26 million a day – R6.2 billion as the country.

“It is not just money, but jobs and livelihoods. It is not just tourism – it is the movie industry and other parts of the economy.

“We should be doing the vaccine certificate as soon as possible, because two-way traffic is necessary to sustain airlines between the UK and South Africa.”

Federated Hospitality Association of Southern Africa national chair Rosemary Anderson said SA’s removal from UK’s red list would give the industry’s recovery efforts and lobbying “a huge morale boost”.

Anderson said the launch of the vaccination certificate would bode well for inbound tourism – “going a long way to restoring confidence in international visitors wanting to visit South Africa”.

Anderson said many of SA’s key source markets “have already or are in the process of implementing digital vaccine certificates or passports”

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