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COVID-19 card ‘scam’ surfaces

Local News
Vaccination card

WORKERS at public health institutions are reportedly fleecing citizens seeking to activate the quick response (QR) codes on their COVID-19 vaccination cards which are a prerequisite for travellers at international borders.

This comes as demand for the activation of the QR codes is rising following relaxation of travel restrictions in most countries across the globe as the COVID-19 cases recede. 

It has also emerged that health workers are also allegedly demanding as much as  US$100 to process activated vaccination cards for people who are not vaccinated.

Scores of vaccinated citizens wishing to travel abroad are reportedly being forced to fork out as much as US$20 to activate their vaccination certificates at health centres offering the service.

The activation of the COVID-19 vaccination cards QR codes is offered by the Health ministry free of charge, but some citizens are paying for the service to hasten the process. Some people end up aborting their trips after failing to have their QR codes activated. 

A survey conducted by NewsDay in the capital yesterday revealed that activation of the COVID-19 vaccination cards QR codes was centralised at major public health institutions and selected local council clinics.

Activation centres visited by NewsDay were characterised by long winding queues with nurses offering services at a slow pace, in what people described as a tactic to frustrate them so that they pay for the service.

In Glen Norah, health workers demanded data or that the person seeking the service provides internet services.

Investigations also revealed that some clinics were taking a limited number of people — about 50 people per day — resulting in dozens of people being turned away.

“They are demanding proof that indeed a person wants to travel abroad before they can activate,” a resident who only identified herself as Sarah said.

“This is my third day at this clinic, I have been coming here every morning to no avail. What I noticed is some nurses come with a handful of cards that will be given preference, while we wait in queues. This makes the process very slow and they can abruptly close office, even before the close of business.”

Contacted for comment, Health ministry secretary  Air Commodore Jasper Chimedza referred questions to the ministry spokesperson Donald Mujiri.

Mujiri was not picking calls and had not responded to questions sent to him by the time of going to print. Health deputy minister John Mangwiro was also not answering his phone.

A nurse who spoke on condition of anonymity confirmed that health workers were being paid by travellers who were in urgent need of the card activation service.

“Kumaactivation kune mari mari refu manje (At the card activation centres people are making money),“ she said.

“Some people would be in urgent need of the QR code because they would not want to miss their flights or they would be busy at work. Instead of waiting for up to five hours in queues they opt to pay us.  Inenge iri yekutenga drink chete, kana US$40 chaiyo. (It would be just for appreciation, up to US$40).”

Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike called for the decentralisation of the COVID-19 vaccination card activation to the districts to stop the rot.

“It is unnecessary and very unacceptable that people have to spend hours of productive time in queues trying to get QR codes. The Ministry of Health and Child Care should also be seen to be implementing the devolution process in the issuance of the QR codes as it has an added advantage of ensuring that services that were previously centralised are now decentralised by taking such services to the people and making them more efficient and easily accessible,” Rusike said.

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