Recently an investigation done by the Daily Maverick has found that some bus company agents, who operate in Park Station in Johannesburg have been selling fake Covid-19 test results to passengers travelling to neighbouring countries.
Park Station is one of the biggest bus and railway stations in Africa and it also serves as centre for cross border travel in South Africa. Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) says that approximately 200 000 people make use of this station every day.
While investigating the Daily Maverick was able to secure two fake Covid-19 test results from two bus companies for a total of R700, in just a few minutes.
The tests that they were given had the names and logos of a reputable private pathology laboratory. It also made use of technical medical jargon to describe the result and seemed to be legitimate.
Negative Covid-19 test results or certificates must be presented at a port of entry by travellers arriving in South Africa or they will be turned back. This requirement is the same for other countries.
Results for an authentic test, which include a biological sample being taken and laboratory tests being performed, can be available within 24 hours and can cost between R200 and R800 depending on what type of test is performed.
The Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test is considered as one of the best in Covid-19 detection and involves biological samples being swabbed from the back of the throat or nasal passage. The results from these tests can take at least 24 hours to be available.
The Daily Maverick reporter was sold two of these PCR tests form two bus companies at Park Station without having to give any biological samples. These results were available to the reported within a half an hour.
The pathology company logo and name, Neuberg Global Laboratories which one of the bus companies used to create the fake Covid-19 results says that they have nothing to do with this and that investigations and police reports will ensue as this is criminal activity where people are falsifying their results and documents.
Chief Pathologist at Neuberg Global Laboratories, Fathima Dedaat said that there were many inconsistencies in the fake Covid-19 test result.
“The signature in the fake Covid result is different from ours and while our logo is on the left-hand corner, theirs is in the middle and bigger… Next to our logo is the doctor’s name and practice number but it is not present in the fake result. Ours also has an address and contact details, but it is not on their own," she said.
It is difficult for pathology companies to make people aware of the differences between their test results and the fake test results that others are selling as this would give them an opportunity to make the test results seem even more accurate.
The use and sale of fake negative Covid-19 test results could negatively impact South Africa's efforts to combat the pandemic. Those who make use of these fake results could have Covid-19 and spread the virus to others while travelling and when they reach their destinations.
“This is going to be advancing and propagating Covid because people are using false negative results and spreading the organisms,” CEO of Neuberg Global Laboratories, Joshua Fisher told the Daily Maverick.