Many countries, especially the wealthier ones, are now at the point when restrictions used to combat COVID-19 are being eased or even completely removed. In their place are a whole heap of new ways of proving that an individual is COVID-free, including recent negative PCR tests, rapid antigen tests, and vaccine “passports” and their equivalents. Those countries that experienced the worst outbreaks of the disease were often the first to launch massive vaccination programmes, which have been of varied success, but at least have reduced hospitalisations and deaths.

Translating COVID-19 Tests and Vaccination Status

Until recently, COVID-19’s deadly influence has decimated non-essential international travel, even, in some countries such as Australia has given rise to strict internal border barriers. It’s no wonder that the majority of the world’s population is can’t wait for the day when what was once considered “normal” travel can recommence.

In addition to travel recommencing with the assistance of proof of negative tests and so-called vaccine passports, there is increasingly a necessity in many countries to prove your COVID status when applying for a job, keeping a job or even attending everyday venues such as restaurants, bars, nightclubs, gyms, even places of worship. 

Why is there a need for test and vaccine translation?

Currently, all these ways of proving COVID free status are not standardised across countries. Crucially, especially for international travel, this will have to be devised to the satisfaction of all countries. There are a number of challenges with having a fit for purpose test result and vaccine proof, not the least being the fact that they may have to be verified across language barriers. This shouldn’t be regarded as something new. 

National health departments around the world where multiple languages exist have come to realise that crucial information about combating the virus must be translated into as many languages as possible. It has been notable that COVID-19 transmission rates often tend to be higher where socio-economically deprived ethnic minorities exist, usually in crowded suburbs of major cities. Information about restrictions, the need for testing and vaccinating have often gone missing until translation into the major ethnic languages has been used. 

What needs to be translated?

  • COVID-19 test results are often requested just before someone wishes to cross borders. Typically, these are the more accurate PCR tests applied through a nasal swab or a saliva test. As these become more and more common, there will be a need to translate Covid-19 test results. The date and test result as well as the type of test together with identification of the holder of the test certificate will all need to be translated. In Europe, this is becoming standard practice as COVID-19 test results in the form of a certificate are translated into the E.U.’s many languages.
  • Rapid antigen testing is also being used now. This test is, as its name suggests, much quicker than PCR testing, typically available as a result in10 to 15 minutes after the test is taken. Rapid antigen testing is not as accurate as the standard PCR test and only shows that you don’t have any clear proof that you have been infected. Because of the way this test is used, it will be harder to see how it can be used for international travel across language barriers unless the technological challenges are overcome.
  • Vaccine passports or certificates are already being demanded across national borders. They show when the holder was vaccinated, whether it was a single or double dose and which vaccine was used. Because of the importance of these certificates, translation services will need to be integrated in such a way that verification of validity can be easily confirmed.