The Philippine General Hospital cautioned the public against dealing with suspicious individuals offering fake coronavirus tests under the institution’s name.
This advisory came after some social media users informed others about a scheme of faking swab test results for travel and work.
PGH said it has been alerted of this scheme.
“We have received reports of falsified or fake negative results using the PGH SARS-CoV-2 Reverse Transcription PCR Report forms,” the hospital said in a March 22 post.
“We wish to inform everyone to avoid dealing with unscrupulous individuals and be wary of suspicious-looking RT-PCR reports,” it added.
The hospital also provided an email where patients can contact them to verify their COVID-19 test results.
“Authenticity of reports can be verified by contacting us through our email at: firstname.lastname@example.org,” it said.
False RT-PCR tests
Last week, amid the repeated spike of COVID-19 infections, a Facebook user shared screenshots of conversations she had with a person who offered to create fake swab test results for P2,500.
Based on the screenshots, the person the user talked to claimed knowing someone from PGH who falsify these documents.
“Today, as I was looking for a private clinic/hospital that has RT-PCR, I came across a person who offers one that can be processed in one day. He mentioned that he has a friend in ‘PGH-UP Diliman’ and that we don’t need to go to the clinic. He said that everything will be processed online and payment is via Gcash. In addition to this, he is using a dummy account,” the user wrote.
When these posts reached Twitter, some members of the medical community called out the people behind the scheme.
“Calling out people who make fake results, and people who pay other people to make fake results. I know it’s easier and I wish the test is more accessible, but this is very dangerous. You could put other people at risk because of your actions,” one Twitter user said.
“Bakit pa gagawa ng fake covid-19 test results for 2,500 if you can get saliva or swab test for the same price? Your action is impractical and unsafe. You’re putting lives in danger,” another said.
Some Filipinos also pointed out that others would not have resorted to these illegal acts if RT-PCR tests are readily available for the public.
“If COVID-19 testing were free, readily available, accessible, and with a rapid turnaround time in this country, people would not resort to getting FAKE test results. (face palm emoji) (Pakiforward naman dun sa naka 35x at 56x na swab test.),” one user said.
The Department of Tourism earlier implemented a “test before travel policy” as tourist attractions gradually reopened late 2020.
The DOT and its attached agency Tourism Promotions Board partnered with PGH to shoulder 50% of the P1,800 RT-PCR testing cost administered by the PGH. The P900 remaining fee will be shouldered by the tourist.
However, with the surge of COVID-19 cases since last week, the agency temporarily suspended the processing and endorsements subsidy applicants.
The suspension took effect last March 22 and will last until April 4, 2021.
Falsification of COVID-19 test
Several Filipino tourists and workers have been reported to forge their COVID-19 test results for travel and work requirements in recent months.
These incidents eventually reached President Rodrigo Duterte.
In an address on March 11, he ordered the military and police to go after individuals who release fake test results.
“Kasi false positive, false negative, hindi mo malaman ano ba ito totohanan o iba ‘yan diyan peke o… So, I will have to order the police again. Wala akong ibang mauutusan, hindi mo naman mautusan ‘yang mga doktor. I have to order the police and the military to find out and arrest these people,” he said.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, on the other hand, repeatedly warned those who are falsifying their COVID-19 test results that they may face imprisonment and hefty fines.
Falsifying of COVID-19 test results is “a crime punishable under Republic Act 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act which provides for penalties of P20,000 but not more than P50,000 or imprisonment of not less than one month but not more than six months, or both fine and imprisonment, at the discretion of the court.”
Under the Section 1-B of RA 11332, “tampering of records relating to notifiable diseases or health events of public health concern, which includes official medical test results or medical certificates, or such other documents and records issued by public health authorities” is punishable by law.
Puyat in January reminded those who are planning to fake their COVID-19 test that “every time you go to a tourist destination and you faked your test, you are not only endangering yourself, but also the locals.”