Mumbai: Some domestic passengers use fake Covid-19 reports to fly
Authorities said some passengers flying into the city are providing fake test reports at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) to show they are Covid-negative. Terming these as “rare” instances, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials said fake reports showing results of reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests are being presented at the airport. There is no mechanism to track the veracity of RT-PCR test results.
In November, CSMIA issued guidelines stating domestic passengers from Delhi, Gujarat, Goa, and Rajasthan are required to provide a negative RT-PCR test report undertaken within 72 hours prior to travel. Otherwise, they must undergo the test at the airport on arrival at their own cost. Kerala was added to the list in February. There is a team dedicated to conducting checks at CSMIA before passengers enter arrival halls. However, it is not possible for officials to cross-check the authenticity of each passenger’s report. According to BMC, some are presenting fake test certificates at the airport.
“We got to know that some passengers take a Covid-19 negative report from a relative. Then with the help of Photoshop, they change the dates, names and PAN numbers. Within five minutes, they are able to create fake RT-PCR reports,” said a BMC official, requesting anonymity.
Last week, BMC registered a first information report against a family based in Khar, who had presented a Covid-negative report that was exposed as fake when the test result with the laboratory showed as positive. “In the event of suspicion of a fraudulent report, BMC officials on ground at the airport are alerted to the incident for further action,” said a spokesperson from the airport.
Additional municipal commissioner P Velrasu said, “I don’t overrule that domestic passengers aren’t submitting fake test reports but such instances are rare.”
Another tactic used by passengers from the five restricted states is reportedly to enter Mumbai via other neighbouring states. For instance, BMC noted some passengers coming from Goa had taken a flight to Bengaluru and then flown to Mumbai. “In that way, they skip screening at the airport as passengers from Bengaluru don’t have to show RT-PCR reports. If a passenger doesn’t reveal their travel history, it is not possible to cross check it,” said the BMC official.
“Travelling from other states is one of the contributing factors to the rise of Covid-19 cases in Mumbai. To control the possible spread of the virus, we are checking test reports,” said additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani. He added that if the public continued to flout rules, more stringent measures may have to be imposed.
Velrasu said there is no accessible government database against which the veracity of Covid-19 reports may be checked live. “If people are showing reports from Maharashtra, then through the bar code, we can still verify the authenticity. But if passengers submit fake reports from other states, there is no way to check those,” he said.
The regular Covid-19 test is available at a minimum cost of ₹850 at CSMIA. Results are delivered in eight to -24 hours. An express test is available at ₹4,500, which delivers results in 13 minutes. Self-quarantine is mandatory for international passengers from the United Kingdom, Brazil and South Africa. “CSMIA recently re-opened its Terminal 1 to further enhance health and safety of the passengers and personnel at the airport” reads the airport’s statement.