Fake Covid Certificates: Public health, country’s image abroad at stake
The fake Covid-19 tests have not only posed a risk to public health but also put the Bangladeshi expatriates in trouble.
The risks of transmission multiplies when the tests are faked because an infected person may mingle with their family members and others in the country and beyond, experts say.
Many expatriates might face problems returning abroad if other countries have a poor impression of Bangladesh's testing and overall handling of the pandemic.
Japan, Italy and South Korea have already restricted the entry of Bangladeshis after some of them, with documents certifying that they didn't have the coronavirus, tested positive after they arrived in those countries.
The fraudulence came to fore more prominently after a mobile court on July 7 sealed off Regent Hospital on charges of issuing fake Covid-19 test reports and taking money illegally from Covid-19 patients.
Executive Magistrate Sarwoer Alam, who led the mobile court, told The Daily Star that the hospital authorities issued more than 10,000 Covid-19 test results.
Around 4,200 samples were tested at different government labs, but they threw away the rest of the samples, forged the reports and handed those to people.
Earlier, law enforcers tracked down several gangs involved in making and issuing fake Covid-19 test certificates.
Prof Muzaherul Huq, former regional advisor of WHO South East Asia region, said this would increase the risk of further transmission in the country and beyond.
"This would create a bad image of Bangladesh and its health system in other countries," he told The Daily Star yesterday.
"As a result, expatriates, who would want to return to their workplace, may face problems and even may not get permission."
If a real Covid-19 patient gets a fake negative certificate, they would spread the virus unwillingly among family members and others, he said.
If a patient was given a fake positive certificate and was forced to get admitted to a hospital, they may get infected at the hospital, not to mention the hassles they faced, Muzaherul Huq said.
Former Ambassador Humayun Kabir said such an incident would tarnish the image of the country and other nations would get the message that Bangladesh is not behaving responsibly.
"It may be done by some people, but the whole country has to face its consequences," he told The Daily Star yesterday.
It would tarnish the image of over 10 million expatriates across the globe.
He said such incidents reflect domestic governance problems and weaknesses.
"A panic is prevailing across the world and if we fail to manage the situation properly, we may have to face multiple impacts. So, we must be very careful about it."
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader too spoke up about the issue.
A section of dishonest people is cheating commoners, with fake certificates and making plasma donations, he said while speaking at a virtual press conference from his official residence in Dhaka yesterday, reports BSS.
The government has taken a strong stance against all these scams and irregularities, he said.
ARREST AND ACTION AGAINST FAKE CERTIFICATE
On June 24, Police arrested five persons from Dhaka for allegedly delivering fake coronavirus test reports without carrying out any test.
The arrestees included Ariful Chowdhury, chief executive officer of JKG Health Care. According to Dhaka Metropolitan Police (Tejgaon), the accused delivered fake coronavirus certificates to at least 37 people.
The following day, the Directorate General of Health Services revoked the permission to JKG Health Care for collecting COVID-19 samples.
On June 15, Rapid Action Battalion raided a photocopy shop in the capital's Mugda area and recovered a stash of fake Covid-19 certificates.
They also arrested four people on charges of being involved in making and selling illegal certificates.
Rab said individuals without visible symptoms of coronavirus are buying fake negative certificates for traveling and attending offices and courts. Meanwhile, many are collecting fake positive certificates to avail public holidays and various benefits.
On June 4, two youths were arrested in Savar for selling fake Covid-19 certificates.
Law enforcers last month claimed to have detected around a dozen syndicates, who are selling fake certificates during the pandemic. They provided a printed "Covid-19 negative/positive" certificate or an email, for Tk 5,000 to Tk 9,000.
In cooperation with some hospital staffers, these syndicates mainly target those in need of a Covid-19 negative certificate to go abroad, said officials of police and Rab.