HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe police have arrested two men for selling fake COVID-19 test results.
Zimbabwe has begun opening its borders and travelers are required to produce certificates produced within 48 hours that show that they are not infected by COVID-19.
The two men were arrested at the country’s northern Chirundu border post, the gateway to neighboring Zambia, after a tip from the public, police spokesman Paul Nyathi said Monday.
He said the men were “originating fake COVID-19 certificates” despite having no medical qualifications and were found in possession of more than 330 blank certificates as well as testing kits and a packet of needles.
Zimbabweans frequently visit neighboring countries to buy groceries, clothes, and other basic items that are either unavailable or too expensive in their own country. Zimbabwe is gripped by a lengthy economic crisis that has caused many manufacturers to close. With the unemployment rate above 80%, many Zimbabweans are also trying to find work in neighboring countries.
However, an already battered economy made worse by the outbreak of COVID-19 means few people wanting to travel can afford to pay for genuine COVID-19 tests done mostly at private medical institutions and costing up to $80.
Nyathi, the police spokesman, said travelers should get certificates from approved institutions, warning that they risk arrest and losing their money to people selling bogus certificates.
He said police are investigating the extent of the scam, highlighting that desperation to travel to buy basics ahead of the festive season could increase sales of the false certificates.
The 7-day rolling average of daily new cases in Zimbabwe has risen over the past two weeks from 0.38 new cases per 100,000 people on Nov. 22 to 0.86 new cases per 100,000 people on Dec. 6.
Many Zimbabweans have become complacent about the threat posed by the virus and no longer practice preventive measures such as social distancing and wearing face masks.