BY LORRAINE MUROMO
ZIMBABWEANS travelling to South Africa are having their COVID-19 vaccination cards rejected at various points of entry by that country’s immigration officials over claims that they are fake.
It emerged that the cards failed the quick response (QR) code scans, rendering them useless.
A COVID-19 vaccination QR code is a type of barcode that carries the holders’ personal details including when they took the vaccine and where.
In March 2021, the government announced the issuance of COVID-19 certificates with a QR barcode that could be scanned for verification.
Government said the certificates would be linked to the person’s passport and national identity document.
Electronic vaccination cards are now a prerequisite to enter other African countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya.
“I faced difficulties crossing the border when I travelled to Kenya. The authorities said they could not recognise my vaccination card due to the blank QR code. My lucky break only came with the mounting pressure of people wanting to cross, therefore, we were finally rushed through,” Tracy Chapwanya said.
At the land borders, Zimbabweans travelling to South Africa are reportedly paying bribes of up to R100 after their vaccination cards failed QR scans, and were rejected as fake.
Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation executive director Samuel Wadzai said they received several reports from their members who are cross-border traders who faced the same challenges with their vaccination cards at the borders.
“We receive a lot of reports from our members who have been victims. There should be clarity and certainty in terms of vaccination and COVID-19 requirements,” Wadzai said.
Government last week announced plans to decentralise the activation of QR codes on COVID-19 vaccination cards to allow the travelling public’s cards to be recognised at various ports of entry.
Health and Child Care ministry secretary Jasper Chimedza confirmed that the COVID-19 certificates had inactivated QR cards.
“Due to the threat posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to urgently roll out the COVID-19 vaccination programme, the latest COVID-19 vaccination certificates were issued with pre-printed QR codes that are blank and required to be activated by loading electronic data on them,” Chimedza said.
“However, given that the number of people who have received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to date is now exceeding fice million, we are currently reserving this functionality to individuals travelling out of the country while plans are being made to open this up to the greater public.
“The Health and Child Care ministry, for the convenience of the public, has begun the process of decentralising the activation process for travellers and will be releasing updated lists of activation points countrywide on a regular basis.”
Statistics from the Health ministry show that 24,3%, just over 3,5 million have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19.