23 travelers on a flight from Tel Aviv to New York yesterday were removed after officials discovered their COVID-19 test certificates were forgeries. United Airlines staff informed health authorities at Ben Gurion International Airport of their suspicions that the test certificates were fake. All 23 travelers were detained before being fined and released on bail.
Fake COVID test certificates in Tel Aviv
Authorities at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv detained 23 passengers after their COVID-19 test certificates were discovered to be fraudulent. The forgeries were uncovered after United Airlines staff made their suspicions known to officials at the airport.
Upon further examination, officials determined that the certificates were indeed forgeries before detaining all passengers involved. The travelers, booked on a United Airlines flight to New York yesterday, were eventually fined and released on bail. Authorities have not ruled out additional punishment for those involved.
United Airlines is believed to have contacted the Israeli Police regarding their suspicions. The police then contacted the Health Ministry to check the claims. The Health Ministry discovered the test results to be forgeries before the police arrested all passengers involved. Additionally, the details of each individual were passed on to U.S. authorities.
How common are fake COVID tests?
Officials worldwide have long been aware of the prospect of falsified COVID certificates. In Israel, the black market for forged COVID certificates is apparently booming. In the past week, around 15 people were caught with fraudulent health documents every single day at Ben Gurion International Airport.
An Israeli police spokesperson commented,
“Every day there are verified cases who come to Ben Gurion Airport, break the law, are fined, and return to quarantine.”
This isn’t the first publicized incident in Israel involving forged COVID tests. In February, 11 travelers coming from New York tested positive for COVID upon arrival in Tel Aviv. Passengers onboard the El Al flight claimed to have overheard several other passengers boasting about using forged certificates to board the flight.
In-flight COVID testing
Earlier this week, El Al announced its plans for a pilot scheme involving in-flight COVID testing. Passengers will take a swab before boarding or mid-flight, enabling them to skip the mandatory testing queues at Ben Gurion International Airport.
Interestingly, the pilot scheme was rolled out on the airline’s New York – Tel Aviv route. The first flight to adopt the scheme was last Thursday’s 2 p.m flight from New York with 280 passengers onboard. Tests are stored in a special refrigerated unit during the flight and marked with a unique barcode for each passenger.
The scheme also involves Israel’s Health Ministry, the Femi Premium company, which operates COVID-19 testing facilities at Ben Gurion and XpresCheck, a U.S testing company. Tests are priced at NIS 80 ($25) each. El Al is keen to stress that the tests are a replacement for the arrival test, with each passenger still required to undergo a separate test up to 72 hours before their flight.
Have you seen or heard about any forged COVID tests? How do you think authorities can better combat these forgeries? Let us know what you think in the comments.