Fully vaccinated people who get infected and test positive for Covid-19 currently still get a green Covid Safe Ticket (CST) in their CovidSafeBE app, but the system will soon be updated to make this impossible.
Despite a positive coronavirus test, vaccinated people’s CST currently stays green because the QR code of the vaccination certificate remains valid, according to Barbara Van Den Haute of Digital Flanders, which developed the app.
“That is because the scanning checks whether there is a certificate of vaccination. And two vaccinations – or in the case of Johnson & Johnson one shot – is enough for a green CST,” she explained on Flemish radio.
One of the people to notice this was An, who works in the healthcare sector and received her first vaccination in February, but still got infected at the start of September, through her children who both picked up the virus at school.
“They are still young, so I was forced to stay at home,” she told VRT’s local radio in Flemish-Brabant. “Despite the safety measures I take, I myself was infected and am now at home with symptomatic Covid.”
As she was a high-risk contact, An had two Covid tests taken at a nearby test centre, and the positive result was registered in her CovidSafeBE app. Yet she can still generate a QR code, based on her vaccination.
“I wanted to see if I still had that certificate. And it turns out that despite being infected and infectious, I can still create a CST and go to a concert tonight,” she said.
According to Van Den Haute of Digital Flanders, from a technical point of view, it was not foreseen that someone could still test positive after vaccination. “But we will solve that.”
Soon the error will be fixed and the app will be updated to make sure that a positive test result (from a PCR or an antigen test) automatically leads to a red Covid Safe Ticket for 11 days.
When exactly this will come into effect, however, has not yet been decided.
In the meantime, the head of the Interfederal Testing & Tracing Committee, Karine Moykens confirmed that the committee has received signals that people with a positive PCR test still travel or go to events with the QR code of their complete vaccination.
“We are going to make sure that this is no longer possible,” she told VRT. “We are as good as done.”
Even if the app is fixed, abusing it will still be possible via the paper version of the CST, but Moykens says that it is impossible to stop offering the printed certificates, as not everyone has a smartphone.
“It is and remains the responsibility of the citizens themselves to know very well that if you test positive, it is not wise to go to events,” she said. “That is not right to your fellow citizens.”
Moykens also said that while those who are vaccinated have a high protection against severe illness and death from Covid and are less likely to become infected and transmit the virus, it cannot be ruled out.
Since the end of August, those who are fully vaccinated and test positive for Covid must quarantine for ten days. On day 7, they have to get tested a second time. If that result is negative, they can end their quarantine.
In Belgium, the CST is now mainly used for travel and for access to larger events, but the debate about an extension of its use is ongoing.
The legal framework was approved last week, and authorities in the Brussels-Capital Region are already preparing to require the CST when entering a bar or restaurant from 1 October, despite opposition from the hospitality sector.
Flanders, meanwhile, does not want a general obligation but is considering its use in certain specific situations, such as a visit to a residential care centre or hospital, or in the municipalities neighbouring Brussels with lower vaccination rates.
On Friday 17 September, the issue is expected to be the main topic on the agenda of the Consultative Committee.