Premier David Burt disclosed more details on the new digital COVID SafeKey programme to be launched to “provide ourselves with the ability to hold important family and cultural events that we have been without for so long”.
Speaking at the latest COVID-19 briefing last night, he said: ” The SafeKey will provide a secure option for allowing activities such as indoor dining and in the near future, larger events, that are important to the cultural fabric of our island, to be held.
“This is not a vaccine passport, as you do not need to get a vaccine in order to have access to the SafeKey or the events or activities that you will be able to access.
“Though there is still work to be done to eliminate local transmission we are making progress thanks to the people of Bermuda for actively following Public Health guidelines to protect our healthcare system. The progress we are seeing and the changes that the Minister of Health was able to announce, is proof that the strategy we implemented, the sacrifices we made, and the actions that we are taking are working.
“In order for this progress to continue we must stay the course. Strong protections at our borders are not ideal, but they are necessary to protect our country from dangerous variants that can threaten what we have achieved.”
He also noted that the programme was “part of an effort to upgrade our Negative Test and Vaccination Certificates to make them verifiable pdf documents”.
“The certificates will contain all information necessary to verify the results of your negative test or vaccination to another jurisdiction,” he said.
“The SafeKeys will contain only the minimum details of your initials of your name, your month and day of birth, and an expiry date. These will be used in parallel with another form of identification, such as a driver’s licence or passport, to verify your identity and it does not contain information about whether you tested negative or vaccinated thus preserving your individual privacy.
“Both the new certificates and the SafeKeys contain a QR code that make the documents able to be read by an app. They contain the same data that is presented next to it and the data is digitally signed for authenticity.
“The digitally signed negative test certificate and vaccination certificate will help combat concerns about certificate fraud as these certificates will not be able to be faked. The digitally signed SafeKeys will make it possible to ensure that they cannot be faked when used for local purposes.
“The QR codes and digital signatures are developed according to the MIT Path Check Foundation’s Paper Verifiable Credential Standard. Initially they will be verifiable by scanning them using the website verify.gov.bm on your phone and later by any application that supports the standard.”
On that note, he said: “The initial roll out will be an early pilot to test how to best leverage this new technology. Persons can obtain a SafeKey QR code by meeting one of the following criteria:
“First, receiving a negative coronavirus test result and that QR Code will be valid for three days or being fully immunised and that QR Code valid until June 15 in this initial rollout phase.
“As this is a new and experimental programme these expiry dates may be adjusted depending on the level of community transmission and to learn how and when best to apply them.
“These new certificates and SafeKeys will be gradually rolled out over the coming weeks,” he added.
“Negative test results in the coming days will be upgraded to the new certificates and include the SafeKey. Persons receiving a negative COVID test result by email – after Thursday – they will include the COVID SafeKey QR code in the email you traditionally get now with your negative test results.
“Fully immunised individuals will begin receiving emails with a link where they can visit to verify their vaccination record details and be issued an upgraded certificate as well as a SafeKey.
“This initial experimental rollout will run until June 15. Participating businesses will be able to scan the QR code and visit verify.gov.bm to verify the details and compare them against the ID of the individual to ensure it is the correct person,” said the Premier.
“These SafeKeys are being issued limited to just this trial period so we can learn from the process and plan for the next phase. Vaccination SafeKeys will be able to be renewed for future phases.
“It is important to note that participating businesses will not need any special equipment in order to use the programme, only a phone with a web-browser and camera. The SafeKey program is also built on open source technology so that any local company can write programmes to utilize them and incorporate them in the support of their business,” he added.
The Premier also urged local app developers who “want more information on how you can develop an app using SafeKey” to email email@example.com.
He also noted that “a successful initial pilot of SafeKey was held over the weekend which was used for an exempted gathering of people”.
“The initial plan for the use for SafeKey will be to allow for indoor dining to resume and for churches to increase in-person attendance for corporate worship. Using SafeKey for indoor dining will therefore allow many local businesses to re-open while we continue to eliminate local transmission. Of course, we have heard of our restaurants that are struggling, and we are happy to include them in this first phase.”
Moving forward, he said: “SafeKeys may not be required for these activities if we successfully eliminate local transmission.
“What we are planning for SafeKey, right now, they are to have access to events which, on a broad level, are restricted but as we move to the next phase – so for instance, if we are successful in meeting our targets and moving to Phase 3 with the resumption of planned indoor dining and other items, then SafeKey will not be required to be used for those activities.
“However, at this time while we are still in a place of Community Transmission, and we want to make sure we are driving down and eliminating local transmission, it is important that we insure that risks are minimised at these establishments. That is the reason why these things are going to be implemented. The long-term view and vision for the SafeKey programme is to support larger events to take place in the future.
“SafeKey is being particularly targeted to make it possible to reopen events and will be used for the Bermuda Day Event at National Sports Centre. As we gather more information of its effectiveness and the participation of individuals, we will look to expand its usage to other large events in the near future,” said Mr Burt.
“It is anticipated that SafeKey will allow events such as larger weddings to take place so that couples can have their special day, no longer having to postpone during the pandemic while knowing we are reducing the risk of that gathering by ensuring that persons are either fully immunised or attendees have tested negative within the previous 72 hours which can serve to minimise the risk. It is important to know you can never fully eliminate the risk but what we are trying to do is minimise the risk, to drive down and eliminate local transmission.
“SafeKey may also enable us to reopen local sports as well as other indoor and outdoor activities allowing our people to enjoy some of our national pastimes.
“The pilot has the potential to be a useful tool to help continue our positive trend towards eliminating local transmission and to make sure we can continue the process of reopening our economy and allowing business to resume. It is hopeful that we will learn from the successful application of this technology so that we can begin to plan for the resumption of important events like Cup Match, knowing that there is a method to reduce the risk for fans that may be attending, for staff and players alike.”
Now that we are moving to Phase 3 of the Return to Play Strategy, he said: “The Government has advised the Bermuda Cricket Board that training can resume, with saliva testing being administered to all players. Discussions have also begun to restart the league, and county cricket, as well as holding our annual Cup Match celebration.
“We know that though we are looking to the future, there are still businesses and individuals affected by the current closures.
“It is important to note that SafeKey will require legislative change,” he added.
“Our aim is to try to get it in place for this weekend, the latest it will be in place by Monday and we will be able to make an announcement when we confirm the time the legislative amendments will be able to be made.
“It is important for all of us to remember that we are preparing for the future today, and we will reclaim our summer, we will reclaim normality in Bermuda as long as we remain united in our goals and vigilant in our actions.”