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Singaporean citizen first to use digital Covid-19 health certificate to cross international border

Hindustan Times logo Hindustan Times 23/12/2020 hindustantimes.com | Edited by Kunal Gaurav
SINGAPORE - DECEMBER 15:  A 16-metre tall Christmas tree is seen as people wearing protective mask walk along the canopy bridge at the Jewel Changi Airport on December 15, 2020 in Singapore. As of 14 December, the Ministry of Health confirmed 5 new imported COVID-19 cases with no cases in the wider community bringing the country's total to 58,325. (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images) © 2020 Suhaimi Abdullah SINGAPORE - DECEMBER 15: A 16-metre tall Christmas tree is seen as people wearing protective mask walk along the canopy bridge at the Jewel Changi Airport on December 15, 2020 in Singapore. As of 14 December, the Ministry of Health confirmed 5 new imported COVID-19 cases with no cases in the wider community bringing the country's total to 58,325. (Photo by Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)

A Singaporean citizen, who returned to the country from Japan on Monday, became the first person in the world to use a digital Covid-19 health certificate for immigration purposes, the companies behind the pass said in a statement. The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) stated that a traveller on Singapore Airlines flight 637 used AOKpass, a digitally authenticated medical records, “to officially present a negative Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction" digital test result upon arrival at Changi Airport’s immigration counters.

“This was the first time an immigration authority has used a blockchain based, digitally verifiable health certificate," the statement read.

According to the ICC, Singapore has become the first country to use a digital health certificate to verify the Covid-19 status of inbound travellers. All travellers from Malaysia and Indonesia will now be able to use ICC AOKpass at Changi Airport to digitally authenticate their Covid-19 test results. They will also be able to authenticate other necessary health credentials during immigration checks.

ICC secretary-general John W.H. Denton AO opined that the chaos at UK ports, triggered by movement restrictions due to the new coronavirus variant, demonstrated the need for pre-travel testing. Denton AO said in a statement that the AOKpass app, following months of pilot tests, has now reached the necessary level of maturity to receive a “sovereign endorsement."

“Deploying standardised testing and verification systems are, simply put, the only way governments can safeguard cross-border commerce while the spread of the virus remains highly unpredictable," he added.

Dr Chester Drum, a co-founder of AOKpass, said in a statement that the use of blockchain technology is a critical step in combating the challenges of forged tests and medical records. He stressed that there is an urgent need for a common framework in certifying, authenticating and securing the results of a Covid-19 test.

“In addition, users must trust that their data privacy is managed well, with no risk of personal data leaks," Drum added.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has also been pushing for a Covid-19 tracking system by using QR codes, as a part of “global mechanism" to ease international travel during coronavirus pandemic. During a virtual G20 summit in November, Xi had proposed a mechanism on the mutual recognition of health certificates in the form of “internationally accepted QR codes."

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