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Econet, PanaBIOS unveil new applications to digitise COVID-19 Certificates, ease cross-border travel in Africa

HARARE – Econet and PanaBIOS have unveiled two new applications that will assist travellers across Africa comply with COVID-19 safety protocols.

The applications – the Travel Pass and the PanaBIOS App – have already been adopted by the African Union (AU) and the Africa Centre for Diseases Control (Africa CDC)-led Trusted Travel portal, which simplifies verification of public health documentation for travellers at national borders.

The portal’s key features include information about the latest travel restrictions and entry requirements, a database of authorised laboratories and vaccination compliance information, as well as Africa CDC mutual recognition protocol for COVID-19 testing, test results and vaccination certificates.

“This simply means that tests conducted in any member state of the AU, and even countries outside Africa, can be verifiable in all other member states provided the labs in which the tests took place have been registered in the digital registry,” an Econet spokesman said.

“We are urging all international travellers to download the Sasai App and have access to the Travel Pass that will help them to navigate through the safety travel protocols across continent,” he added.

The latest development comes as African countries are being urged to take appropriate measures to safeguard their citizens and economies from the deadly coronavirus pandemic as they reopen their borders to international travellers.

Several African nations, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa and Zimbabwe have reopened international airports, removed or relaxed curfews and resumed international tourism as a way of kick-starting their economies that were hit by the COVID-19-induced lockdowns.

However, there are fears that the continent could suffer a new surge in infections that might reverse any progress made in the past few months in curbing the spread of the disease, if travellers are allowed to cross boarders without following proper protocols and procedures set down by the World Health Organisations (WHO).

This has resulted in the African Union Commission launching the ‘saving lives, economies and livelihoods’ campaign aimed at reducing the spread of infections within and across borders by creating a unified public health corridor for safe travel on the continent.

The campaign will facilitate the development of a harmonized strategy to protect borders, travellers, economies, livelihoods and schools in Africa from the risk of increased COVID-19 transmissions as countries re-open their borders and their economies.

“Our technology partners PanaBIOS and Econet have demonstrated tremendous support towards this goal, and we anticipate their technology will help accelerate the implementation of the campaign and safe reopening of Member States,” said John Nkengasong, the Director for Africa CDC, adding that this highlighted the power of partnership in the ‘Africa Against COVID-19’ campaign.

“We want to utilize the ‘whole of Africa’ approach to ensure harmony, standardization and coordination in the development of a public health safe corridor for travellers on the continent,” Nkengasong said.

The move towards digital solutions for the 55-Member State intergovernmental African Union is critical even as the Union commits to meet the Africa Continental Free Trade Area operationalization deadline of January 1, 2021 despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

The continent, which has 17 percent of the world’s population, has recorded 33,430 deaths from Covid-19, or about 3.5 percent of the global total.

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