The UK media reported yesterday (20 Jan) that airport staff at Mumbai airport were arrested for accepting bribes from passengers so that they can skip institutional quarantine upon arrival at the airport.
Three Mumbai airport workers have been arrested after they were caught accepting bribes in exchange for forging entry documents allowing passengers to avoid the mandatory quarantine.
The scam, which took place at Mumbai airport in India, involved charging travellers 4,000 rupees (S$73) each for documentation allowing them to skip the mandatory seven-day institutional quarantine.
After a more transmissible variant of coronavirus was discovered in UK last month, Indian authorities started to impose more travel restrictions, requiring all arrivals from Europe and the Middle East self-isolate in a hotel for a week at their own expense.
Travellers must then receive a negative COVID-19 test result and undergo a further seven days’ quarantine at home. The only exceptions are those who have had a death in their immediate family and women who are in the late stages of pregnancy.
The staff were caught giving out forged documentation for money so as to allow the travellers to forgo the hotel stay by saying they were eligible for home quarantine instead. It helped the passengers to avoid paying for hotel stay.
The scam, apparently, has been going on for awhile. The Indian police were able to seize 140,000 rupees (S$2,540) and 200 Saudi Riyals (S$71) from the suspects, along with a fake rubber stamp used to certify home quarantine, and doctors’ notes providing quarantine exemption.
The arrests revealed that many passengers have already skipped the mandatory quarantine thanks to the scam. The Indian police are investigating if any other airport staff were involved too.
Fake COVID-19 certificates
In the meantime, fake COVID-19 certificates have been found to be issued by labs in India.
Last Sep, over a 100 passengers were stopped from boarding a flight from Indian city Calicut to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after they were found to be holding COVID-19 certificates from Micro Health Laboratories. The lab was blacklisted by the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority (DCAA) earlier. The certificates were supposed to prove that the passengers were tested negative for COVID-19, a requirement to enter UAE.
Micro Health Laboratories had earlier found to be issuing false COVID-19 test negative certificates for an amount of Rs2,750 (S$50) per test. The passengers were not aware that the UAE government has already blacklisted the lab.
A passenger posted a Facebook video pleading for help, “We have been stranded since 11 pm (on September 27) after we were denied boarding. We’re a group of 120 passengers, including families and children, who came from Wayanad, Kannur, Kasaragod and Ernakulam. For many among us, our visa is expiring soon, some are going for company recruitment and some have visiting visas.”
UAE has been blacklisting some of the Indian test labs after allegations of issuing fake COVID-19 test certificates surfaced as well as instances of passengers with a COVID-19 test negative certificate turned up positive on arrival at UAE.
Airlines flying from India to Dubai are directed by DCAA to stop those passengers from boarding, who are using test reports from any of the blacklisted Indian labs. As at last Sep, UAE blacklisted 4 Indian Labs even though they were approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR):
- Micro Health Laboratories (Kozhikode, Kerala)
- Suryam Diagnostic Centre (Jaipur, Rajasthan)
- Dr P Bhasin Path Labs (P) Ltd (New Delhi)
- Noble Diagnostic Centre (New Delhi)
DCAA has found that many passengers who had coronavirus-negative results from these four labs in fact tested positive for the virus upon arrival in Dubai.