Everyone is banking on vaccination passports and tamper-proof test certificates to get borders reopened, but will it really be so simple?

The overwhelming need for travel has already resulted in incidents of black market sales of forged and fake COVID-19 test results. Could this have led to the new waves of reinfections in various countries so far?

We will probably never know, but with vaccination programs in full swing worldwide, credentialling and authentication of COVID-19 testing will form an indispensable element in forging trust between governments in joint safe border agreements.

One country that has demonstrated its willingness to strike safe-travel agreements in the region is Singapore. Its agencies (GovTech and Ministry of Health) have already dabbled in various technology-driven programs such as Digital Health Pass, HealthCerts and SafeTravel programs.

Effective 10 March, it will be mandatory for all clinics in Singapore providing or intending to provide pre-departure testing (PDT) certificates to outbound travelers to issue all certificates in the digital format, following Singapore’s HealthCerts standards. One government agency Notarise.gov.sg supports IQcert, which leverages on the backend database of the Ministry of Health (MOH) and SingPass, the national credential system in Singapore. The Notarise platform allows a single signature—rather than many non-compatible signatures—to be validated by any border control official around the world.

Steven Koh, Director, Government Digital Services, GovTech, said: “Together with HealthCerts, GovTech developed the technology platform behind Notarise, to digitally authenticate certificates so that they can be recognized by authorities overseas, while providing peace of mind to travelers knowing that the documents will always be available digitally.”

Blockchain and SSI in action

How does the IQCert platform work to achieve global acceptance in the administration of infection-testing and certification?

When a person in Singapore gets tested for COVID-19 at a Swab and Send Home (SASH) clinic, the test sample is sent to an authorized laboratory such as Innovative Diagnostics or Quest Laboratories, which will process the sample using the RT-PCR method on the various fully-automated platforms.

A validated result report is issued upon test completion and automatically sent to the Singapore Government e-portal and IQcert. The clinic can log in to the government e-portal to view and verify the test result. Clinic staff then send an email to the tested person with a link to the DHC in the form of a QR Code or provide the person with a physical printout of the memo containing the QR code. The person can then present the digital certificate to Singapore immigration officers at the airports or seaports prior to departure from Singapore.

IQcert leverages the Trybe.ID self-sovereign identity (SSI) and blockchain-powered digital credential solution that supports the globally-accepted HealthCerts schema, the W3C ID and Verifiable Credential standards, and the evolving DIDComms protocols. It is currently being used by over four hundred clinics in Singapore and has so far issued more than a thousand HealthCerts since it was made available in February this year.”

“More scientific data needed”

Said Chami Akmeemana, CEO, Trybe.ID: “We built (the solultion) with the user at the center of the equation and have focused deeply on effective human integration. We believe it offers a unique experience for end users putting them in the driver’s seat. Additionally, our focus on alignment with global standards such as the W3C’s VC Data Model and OpenID Connect have positioned us very well for rapid adoption, integration and scale.”

According to Ginny Foo, CEO of Innovative Diagnostics and Quest Laboratories: “We are living in unprecedented times where laboratory testing is crucial to determine our COVID-19 test status. Enabling trusted authentication of our reports ensures our reputable brand cannot be soiled by forgery, and signals that once again Singapore and its companies lead the way in collaborative innovative solutions. We certainly hope that with the launch of HealthCerts, Singaporeans may soon take to the skies again.”

Beyond opening up opportunities for travel, IQcert can also be used for large-scale trade events such as conferences, seminars and trade shows, other national circumstances permitting. For example, the country’s transport minister Ong Ye Kung has just shrewdly announced that “more scientific data” on vaccination efficacy rates is needed before border measures can be eased, digital health certificates notwithstanding.