Covid Safe Ticket system for events must be watertight, Van Ranst warns
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Covid Safe Ticket system for events must be watertight, Van Ranst warns

Credit: Belga

If the government is to rely heavily on the implementation of the Covid Safe Ticket to allow in- and outdoor events to go ahead, the system must be watertight, virologist Marc Van Ranst has warned.

During Monday’s Consultative Committee, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced that outdoor events for 1,500 people or more can go ahead from 13 August without coronavirus measures – such as face masks or social distancing – if they use the Covid Safe Ticket.

“The Covid Safe Ticket can work, but then it should be constructed in a watertight manner,” Van Ranst told Het Laatste Nieuws. 

The ticket, which is accompanied by the Covid Safe App, shows if someone has been vaccinated, has tested negative for Covid-19, or recently recovered from the virus.

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From 1 September, this mechanism will also be used to reopen indoor events, however, crowd management plans and other measures such as increased ventilation will still be required.

The concerns over relying on such a system stem from recent incidents in the Netherlands, where fake coronavirus passes were either created or used.

‘Committing fraud’

Last weekend, a major leak at a Dutch test company resulted in the coronavirus database becoming available to the public, allowing people to add their own negative test and coronavirus certificate simply by entering two lines of coding with information including a name and a date of birth in their browser.

Also in the Netherlands, there have been several outbreaks of coronavirus following nightclub events and parties that relied on the coronavirus ticket system, which showed that the system is not always infallible.

Some people at one nightclub, where over 190 people became infected in June, reportedly sent the QR code of the application to their friends who were still outside to let them in.

Belgian general practitioner association Domus Medica is also concerned about the use of the Covid Safe Ticket, and referring to the incidents in the Netherlands, its chair Roel Van Giel stressed that it must be certain that a person’s ticket really shows information about that person.

“In the Netherlands, such an app went wrong: it was abused and fraud was committed. If that happens, infected people can gain access to events and, since they do not have to wear a mouth mask and keep their distance, the virus can spread quickly and on a large scale,” he added.

Van Ranst agreed that some form of identity control should be attached to the system, as it “cannot be left to the goodwill of people.”

Domus Medica is also concerned about the testing capacity which Van Giel argues will be stretched as a result of the system.

“Large events attract young people who have not been vaccinated and they all need a negative PCR test. We are curious about the government’s predictions regarding the extra number of PCR tests because if the testing and triage centres fill up, people will end up at the GP’s,” he said.

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