By Robin Muchetu and Thupeyo Muleya
Police have arrested two people and confiscated more than 300 blank stamped Covid-19 certificates, as the net closes in on people who are making fake certificates and selling them to travellers intending to cross the borders.
Zimbabwe reopened its land borders last week but travellers are required to present valid Covid-19 certificates obtained within 48 hours. Most laboratories charge around US$60 for the certificates and this has resulted in the mushrooming of scammers who are issuing the certificates for as little as US$20.
National police spokesman Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said the two, Simbarashe Tsetse (24) and Freddy Katamanga (31) were arrested after originating fake Covid-19 certificates for travellers at Chirundu Border Post.
He said the duo was arrested after a tip-off from members of the public leading to the recovery of 334 blank stamped Covid-19 certificates, two tubes containing glass capillaries, two testing kits, two receipt books, three plastic capillaries, Covid-19 test record register, a methylated spirit bottle and one pack of new needles at their offices at Self-Med Complex.
“This is what the police have been monitoring which led to the arrest at Chirundu where two suspects were found with equipment which they were using to issue fake Covid-19 certificates to travellers. The two were in the process of receiving USD$120 from two people who intended to travel to Zambia.
So, we want to warn the public that they must go to Government institutions and medical institutions which have been cleared by the Government and Ministry of Health and Child Care to issue Covid-19 certificates,” he said.
Asst Comm Nyathi said travellers should avoid back yard premises and people who move around committing various offences under the name of Covid-19. “The police will ensure that the law takes its course on anyone found committing criminal acts under the guise of Covid-19.
Those that will be found buying the fake certificates will also be arrested as long as they are aware that what they are doing is criminal which means they are also conniving with those issuing the certificates and certainly the law will take its course,” he said.
Beitbridge District Medical Officer Dr Lenos Samhere said yesterday the Department of Port Health was on the lookout for travellers using fake documents.
He said since the reopening of the borders to the general public mainly motorists and pedestrians they have been intercepting a number of travellers with fake documents at the Beitbridge Border Post.
Dr Samhere said most of the documents had purportedly come from some clinics in the border town though there is none registered with the ministry to offer such services.
“At some point, we intercepted travellers with certificates they claimed to have acquired at the district hospital, a time when our Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machine had broken down,” he said.
“As far as we are concerned no laboratory has registered with us to indicate they offer such services as required by our standard operational procedures.
“What should happen is that these labs should notify our Port Health, which will then relay the message to the South Africans to accept their certificates. The same applies to those coming from South Africa, we have names of those authorised to do such tests.”
Dr Samhere said they had agreed in principle with their counterparts at the South African border to exchange a list of approved/ registered laboratories which offer PCR tests. He said only those with PCR tests results would be allowed to leave or enter the country.
Some of the travellers who have been turned away were using results from rapid or antigen tests.
“The position is clear from both countries that we will screen travellers based on PCR results and not any other tests.
Our appeal is that travellers must not lose their valuable money to bogus syndicates,” said the medical doctor.
Dr Samhere said the Port Health department had a verifiable list of approved testing points at various points across the county. The Sunday News