Saudi Arabia to Track if Citizens Take Coronavirus Vaccine with ‘Health Passport’

In this photo released by Saudi Health Ministry, Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, Saudi minister of health, receives one of the first COVID-19 vaccinations in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020. (Saudi Health Ministry via AP)
Saudi Health Ministry via AP

Saudi Arabia’s health ministry on Thursday announced the launch of an online “Health Passport” designed to track people’s health status, including if they have received a coronavirus vaccination.

Saudi Minister of Health Dr. Tawfiq al-Rabia and the head of the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence (SDAIA), Dr. Abdullah Sharaf, held a joint press conference on January 7 at the COVID-19 [Chinese coronavirus] Vaccine Center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to debut the “Health Passport,” the Saudi Gazette reported.

Sharaf said the passport will be issued to people via the Saudi government’s official “Tawakkalna” smartphone app “within seconds” of completing the recommended two doses of a Chinese coronavirus inoculation, according to Al Arabiya.

“The passport will reflect the medical condition of its holder and show ‘immune’ for those who completed the vaccination process,” the Riyadh-based Arab News reported on Thursday.

Al-Rabia said that the new smartphone feature “will help the authorities identify those who received the [coronavirus] vaccine,” according to Al Arabiya. The health minister added that Saudi Arabia is one of the first countries in the world to issue such a “Health Passport” in its efforts to contain the spread of the Chinese coronavirus.

Al-Rabiah was the first person in Saudi Arabia to receive a Chinese coronavirus inoculation on December 17 when the Kingdom became the first Arab nation to begin using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The health minister received his second dose of the vaccine on January 7 as part of the “Health Passport” press conference in Riyadh at the capital’s coronavirus Vaccine Center.

“Preparations are underway to open more Corona vaccination centers soon so as to cover all regions of the Kingdom,” Al-Rabiah said on Thursday, according to the Saudi Gazette.

Saudi authorities debuted “Tawakkalna” in May as a means for the Kingdom to track people’s movement during periods of coronavirus lockdown. Citizens and residents of Saudi Arabia were encouraged to download the app if they wanted to travel outside of their homes as requests for “movement permits” were available only through the official government application.

The government required people to request “movement permits” from “Tawakkalna” even in emergency situations.

“For emergencies: You can use the regular ‘Supply’ permit or ‘Emergency’ supply permit, but you must adhere to the Ministry of Interior regulations,” instructions for using the app read.

“For traveling to other neighborhoods or provinces due to a humanitarian situation or losing a loved one or a family emergency: You can apply for a permit from the Saudi Public Security’s online service (tanaqul.ecloud.sa),” the government added.

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