Buyer Beware COVID Test Certificates

December 4 , 2021
By Eden Sahle ( Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at )

A few weeks back, I went to comfort close friends who lost a family member due to COVID-19. It was devastating for the family, and those of us gathered. The person who passed was a fully vaccinated man who was careful about protecting himself and others. The ruthless virus that is wrecking many families' homes was the main topic of discussion. Some said they had lost family members; many have recovered while others lost a business, but one topic raised eyebrows for many of us.

There were some people in the importing and exporting business sitting with us who often travel abroad. They did not know each other but what they had experienced was common to all of them. They spoke about a private hospital certified to issue COVID-19 test certificates for international travellers. Despite what their sample test reveals, they have been offered to pay bribes and get a negative test result.

“We can give you a negative certificate. Just pay a little more extra and you are good to go,” they claimed to be openly told.

It was not the first time I heard such claims about the hospital. A friend mentioned it a while ago. He told me that he was giving his nasal samples when he was offered to pay extra. If his result was negative, he would have his money back, but if it was positive, he was told that his extra payment would get him a negative result. My friend rejected not only the offer but also the entire test and took one at another hospital.

Some paid what they had been asked. They were handed a negative result. They were told their result was positive but changed for them because they had paid the extra cash. When these individuals went to do a second test in a different private hospital, their result was actually negative. It turns out the con was on them too.

Any emergency fuels corruption, creating mismanagement and allowing crime to thrive. The urgency required to receive test results during travel creates a perfect storm for corruption as it presents opportunities for such grave misconduct. This, in turn, undermines and hampers the overall country's response to fight off the stubborn disease that continues to cost precious human life.

The issue perfectly illustrates the need for integrity and professionalism by those handling the public health crisis. It should be understood that their wrongful actions could potentially cost many lives. It is time for everyone to stand together and help the country to control the disease instead of crafting unlawful ways to benefit oneself at the cost of human life.

In Ethiopia, where robust anti-corruption mechanisms are not already in place, keeping corruption under control is much more difficult while systemic corruption is normalised. It is saddening that the awful familiar pattern we all know from public service delivery has found its way into the health sector.

Surprisingly, even though thousands have lost their lives and new cases are being uncovered every day, awareness is still very low. They seem to be blind to the dangers of the disease and the consequences of their irresponsible actions.

Those tasked to address this public health crisis must be conscious of their actions and how it affects them personally and others. Corruption from the health sector impacts everyone, including those who are committing the actions. It tarnishes the remarkable hard work and great impact of those healthcare workers and institutions who are doing more than they are expected to stop the spread of the virus. The authorities should conduct stronger assessments of health service providers and institutions to make sure that everything is on the up-and-up.

After all, fighting corruption is a matter of life and death when it comes to the health sector. Transparency, accountability and integrity should be integrated into all COVID-19 responses. Conducting corruption risk assessment as part of the broader healthcare services can help the authorities tackle unethical and illegal conduct.

PUBLISHED ON Dec 04,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1127]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at

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