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People Are Faking Negative COVID Test Results to Bypass Travel Restrictions

Some passengers are using Photoshop to alter COVID results so they can travel.

Credit: Anna Shvets/Pexels

Since tighter travel restrictions have been enforced, some people have been caught doctering their results using Microsoft Paint and Photoshop in order to travel.

After new strains of Covid keep cropping up, and the UK strain VUI202012-01 now detected in over 60 countries, international travel is stricter than ever. Countries like Ireland and Portugal have reported record deaths from the virus, and governments across the world have started to require airline passengers to present a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding a flight. 

Credit: Martin Lopez/Pexels

Most airlines request a PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before a passenger’s flight. Widely considered as the ‘gold standard’ of virus testing, PCR analyses genertic material from a nasal swab to determine whether a person has an active infection.

But despite the pandemic, and document forgery is a serious criminal offece in most coutries, some travellers are risking all and forging test results to get around the travel restrictions.

Motherboard spoke with two people – who wished to remain anonymous to avoid legal implications – who succesfully doctored their test results. 

“I just fired up photoshop and changed the date,” wrote one man, who altered results for an entire group of friends. He continued, “fun fact, the document [test result] was in French whereas they were in Sweden the day it was supposedly made, but they didn’t see a problem in that.” 

The second person claimed they used Microsoft Paint to change the date of an old test to use for his holiday in Europe.

In the case of these two travellers, their reasoning for faking the documents was to save money. Whilse PCR test in Europe are free through public healthcare systems, most national health authorities refuse to provide medical certificates which are required to travel. As many health authorities actively advise people against international travel, some passengers are finding it difficult to get their hands on a test.

For example, in the Netherlands, travellers are required to have their tests done in a private lab, which usually costs over €100.

“Yeah motivation is mostly to save money,” wrote one of the forementioned travellers. “Kind of scared but nevertheless I think it’s very likely that most Airline workers are not looking out for this type of fraud.” 

Credit: Marcelo Renda/Pexels

Motherboard also spoke to an administrator from the aviation trade association Airlines for America who confirmed, to their knowledge, that airline staff who are often tasked with verifying passenger tests, do not recieve any formal training in what to look out for. 

However, an employee of Rome’s Fiumicino airport claimed that how meticulously employees are told to check test results varies depending on airport, country and airline. For instance, it was only earlier this month that the UK government implemented the requirement for a negative COVID test upon entry to the UK.

Airlines that fail to catch passengers with fake results can face hefty fines if they are caught at the border of their destinaton. But based on the conversations Motherboard had with the two airline employees, it doesn’t seem to be a priority for most in the sector. 

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Content Writer and freelance journalist with an MA in Creative Writing. Passionate about films, books and general media.

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