How crooks are getting Covid-19 certificates without being tested

A man undergoes a Covid-19 test at a testing centre in Nairobi. [File, Standard]

Some health officials could be collaborating with travel agents and issuing Covid-free certificates to Kenyans flying overseas without testing them for the deadly virus, The Standard has established. Some of these travel agencies are based in Eastleigh, Nairobi County.

All one has to do is pose as a traveller and the travel agents will furnish you with a Covid-19 negative certificate – complete with the government emblem in the background – at a fee of Sh5,000 for “quick clearance”. The illegal certificates are in most cases issued to travellers headed to Turkey, England, Dubai, South Africa and Somalia.

“Yes, they just send the details of the passenger and they receive the certificates on WhatsApp. They print it if they are the travel agents and attach the ticket and send it to you via boda boda or you can collect it from an internet café in Eastleigh,” a frequent flier, who has been benefiting from the deal told The Standard.

This racket is lucrative considering the number of passengers travelling overseas every day and who must produce the Covid-19 certificate 72 hours before boarding. The racket involves senior lab technicians at the Machakos Level 5 Hospital, which is among the hospitals accredited to run Covid-19 tests and issue certificates.

According to our investigations, two travellers who were heading to London and one to Somalia booked their tickets on May 6 and 19. They all never had their samples taken but were given the green light to fly.

The first client, a male aged 44 flying to London, had his negative certificate sent to him via WhatsApp with the document claiming that his samples were collected on May 6 and the test recorded on May 7, 2021, at 3:54 am.

The second traveller, a 33-year-old travelling the same route, too had his certificate sent to him via WhatsApp indicating that they had his samples collected on May 6 and tests recorded on May 7, 2021, at 3:54 am

The third traveller to Somalia aged 34 also had documents showing that the tests were carried out on May 19, 2021, and the tests were recorded on May 19 at 7:37 pm.

From the documents in our possession, all the certificates were generated by Emmanuel Mbevi, who is head of the laboratory at Machakos Level 5.

When contacted, Mbevi admitted that there was a problem with their system two months ago that has, however, been resolved.

“Our system was hacked two months ago because everyone had a password. So we met with the medical superintendent and other top medics and decided that only one person will henceforth have a password. Right now, that person is me, and if you go to the records, ever since I took over and I am the only one with the password, you will notice that everyone who has a certificate from us was tested and results are legitimate,” he said.

Mbevi adds that the biggest challenge they had was offering free services because their laboratories were now flocked by people from all the counties around Nairobi.

“We get reagents from the national government, so the county leadership decided that we should not charge people for Covid-19 tests. This attracted people from Kiambu, Nairobi, Kajiado, and Murang’a just to come and get tested for free.

So with the influx of patients seeking tests, some rogue elements decided to play games, and we immediately found out and stopped it,” says Mbevi.

Several Kenyans – including politicians, business people and sportsmen - have been forced into quarantine overseas after testing positive for Covid-19 despite being in possession of certificates declaring them clean as a whistle.

Covid 19 Time Series