12 arrested at JKIA in fake Covid-19 test results scam
Twelve more people have been arrested at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) after producing fake Covid-19 results while attempting to travel to Saudi Arabia, as the government starts taking over testing of all travellers at the airport.
All 12 who produced results alleging they came from CDC Nairobi Laboratory were arrested at the airport before being handed to Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) detectives, who booked them to await their court cases.
They were identified after the results they produced had fake Trusted Travel (TT) test certificates used to verify the authenticity of all Covid-19 test results produced at the airport.
The move by the government is an attempt to seal the loophole of fake test results. Port Health has begun giving the antigen test at a fee of $20 (Sh2,268) for departures before they completely take over testing in the following weeks.
Antigen test is a Covid-19 test that detects certain proteins in the virus. Using a nasal swab to get a fluid sample, antigen tests produce results in minutes.
Health CS Mutahi Kagwe, while confirming the establishment of government laboratories at all points of exit and entry in the country, said decisive action had to be taken, given the increase in fake results in the few past days.
Laboratories shut down
“We do not want private labs on the scene until we are certain that there is no more funny business going on,” he said.
A source at the Health ministry who spoke on condition of anonymity said following an audit that was conducted by the ministry last week, officials decided to start the process of taking over testing of all travellers at the airport.
The source added that the ministry was also planning for a long term solution that will include a full molecular laboratory at the airport as is the case for countries such as Uganda, which tests departing and arriving passengers.
So far, the ministry has shut down two laboratories in the country following various fake results at the airport.
The two; Checkup Medical, and Meditest, among other private companies, have been handling PCR tests at airports. They have now been banned from doing so.
The investigations arose after it was established that travellers from Nairobi were testing positive for Covid-19 after arrival in Dubai, despite carrying negative test results.
Verification of labs
In retaliation to the move by the Middle East nation to ban flights from Kenya, the country suspended all inbound and transit passenger flights from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The ban came a few days after the UAE extended its Kenya flight ban.
Matters surrounding the kits and verification of labs have also been an issue, with two departments within the ministry doing the same job.
Kenya Medical Laboratory Technicians and Technologists Board (KMLTTB) is an agency mandated to license laboratory technicians in the country as well as regulate the conduct of laboratory functions. It is against the law for unlicensed personnel to test clinical samples.
The Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB), which is charged with regulating the practice of pharmacy and trade in drugs, also authorises Covid-19 test kits that come in the country.
Recently, staff of the China National Aero-technology International Engineering Corporation (Avic-KDN) who conducted tests on more than 20 employees in Kigumo, Murang’a County, were arrested.
The tests were conducted by the human resources managers, who are not licensed or registered laboratory technicians. Upon investigations, the test kits were traced to a medical supplies company in a residential villa on Laikipia Road in Kileleshwa, Nairobi.