By Stephen Macharia
As air travel resumes in Africa after shut down due to Covid-19 pandemic, the African Union (AU) together with partners have rolled out a digital technology for cross boarder contact tracing and managing congestion in public places including the airports.
Christened PanaBIOS, the application, downloadable from Panabios.org, also creates a base for standardized protocols to verify the health status of international travelers across borders as air travel resumes.
“Travelers are able to use test results from one country to satisfy port clearance requirements in another country through their personal PanaBios app or by adding a system-generated SMS/USSD passcode to another travel document. Port Health Officials use the enterprise version of the app to validate health declarations in a uniform manner across countries” PanaBIOS consortium says. The consortium consists of the AU, African Economic Zones Organization, The AfroChampions Initiative, Koldchain BioCordon, African Tourism Board, and the Global Travel and Tourism Resilience Council.
The technology has been piloted in Ghana political vote process to manage congestion at voter registration centers across the country.
In a statement issued last week, the Electoral Commission of Ghana said PanaBIOS is being in the voter registration exercise as the country prepares for a general election.
“The new digital system will enable prospective applicants to book a slot in a priority queue from the comfort of their homes. The strategy is to limit the number of people that visit the registration centres at any given time. The Commission is optimistic that this new approach will help decongest the registration centres for the safety of both its Officials and applicants,” the statement reads in part.
Speaking during the launch of PanaBIOS, AU Commissioner of Trade & Industry Albert Muchanga cited PanaBIOS as a tool that will safeguard Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement as economies in the continent take a hit from travel restrictions meant to slow the spread of Covid-19.
The big data solution to the Covid-19 pandemic digitizes cross boarder health travels, consequently reducing boarder clearance times as well as helping authorities conduct disease surveillance.
PanaBios offers Kenya, a member of the AU, benefits of real time solutions to prevent importation of new Covid-19 cases at ports of entry.
According to Dr. Anthony Nsiah-Asare, Presidential Advisor on Health in Ghana, PanaBios will help Africa stem upsurge of Covid-19 cases after resumption of air travel.
“The world is easing sanctions. We [Africa] have to get a system in place that will provides real-time oversight at borders and the airports,” he said.
Without use of real-time solutions, such as PanaBios, Africa will become the new epicenter for Covid-19 in the world, Nsiah-Asare warns.
In addition to providing a platform for cross boarder contact tracing and managing public congestion PanaBios can monitor how Covid-19 spreads. In case of a Covid-19 positive case, the system alerts the people who have been in close contact with the infected person.
The technology has a tool that allows people to virtually access test results and Covid-19 certificates.