Budget debate: Singapore clinics must issue digital pre-departure Covid-19 test certificates for outbound travellers from March 10

Travellers will need to notarise the digital Covid-19 test certificate so it can be recognised at the airport and overseas.
Travellers will need to notarise the digital Covid-19 test certificate so it can be recognised at the airport and overseas.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Clinics authorised to conduct pre-departure Covid-19 tests (PDTs) for outbound travellers will have to issue digital test result certificates from March 10 onwards, instead of the current physical certificates.

The initiative was supposed to start on Feb 10, but it had been delayed by one month to allow clinics and labs additional time to set up the capability to digitalise the PDT certificates.

The Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO) said on Friday (Feb 26) that the new digital certification system is based on HealthCerts, an open-source framework for issuing digital Covid-19 test result certificates.

"The use of HealthCerts for digital PDT certificates enables an inter-operable, verifiable, and tamper-proof solution which will smoothen and expedite check-in processing and customs clearance at foreign and local immigration checkpoints," the office said.

Travellers will need to notarise the digital Covid-19 test certificate - which means having the document certified by the Ministry of Health - so it can be recognised at the airport and overseas.

The certificate will need to be uploaded on the Government's Notarise website, after which a notarised digital PDT certificate containing a QR code will be sent to travellers.

Airline and immigration officials can scan the QR code to check the authenticity of the PDT certificate using a tool called Verify, developed by technology agency GovTech, or Temasek-linked firm Affinidi's verification tool currently being piloted by Singapore Airlines.

The platform will be able to check whether the digital certificate was tampered with and whether the certificate has been notarised by the Health Ministry.

Minister-in-charge of the Smart Nation Initiative in the Prime Minister's Office Vivian Balakrishnan said in Parliament during the debate on the PMO's budget on Friday that the notarised pre-departure test results will be available on the SingPass Mobile app. The notarised test results will also be sent via e-mail.

The Government will look into extending this to vaccine certificates, he added.

SNDGO noted that the World Health Organisation's current recommendation is that Covid-19 vaccinations should not be imposed as a condition of entry.

It added: "The Singapore Government is closely monitoring international developments on the use of digital vaccination certifications for travel and is in discussions with the International Civil Aviation Organisation and various countries on the mutual recognition of such certifications.

"The discussions will take some time, as most countries have only just started vaccinations."

There are currently nine HealthCerts-compliant technology providers, which clinics can buy from to start issuing digital certificates.

SNDGO said that the individual’s data remains private with the digital test certificate. 

“Only a hash, or digital fingerprint, of the digital PDT certificate is published to the blockchain upon issuance,” it said. “Only this hash is needed to check the authenticity and validity of the digital PDT certificate.”