Monday, January 31, 2022

Covid test at Bengaluru airport: Flyers to UAE allege severe malpractice

Bengaluru: Many air travellers claim the sole Covid-19 testing lab at Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) is indulging in malpractices, including collecting bribes for negative reports, issuing tampered positive reports to force desperate flyers to take another test at a cost of Rs 3,000 and demanding extra money to issue reports swiftly.Passengers venting their ire are a daily affair, with numerous complaints making it to social media. Authorities, including officials of the health department, have turned a blind eye so far.

With the UAE mandating all incoming passengers to carry a pre-departure Covid RT-PCR test apart from a negative test report valid for 48 hours, passengers, mainly those departing to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, must undergo a test at Auriga Research lab, the only testing facility at KIA. An RT-PCR test costs Rs 3,000 at the lab.

On Saturday, a group of more than 35 passengers protested at the lab, venting their anger at staffers as many passengers scheduled to fly to UAE were issued positive reports and staff allegedly coaxed them to take another Covid test for Rs 3,000 each.

“I received my Covid negative report on Friday night from a lab near home but on Saturday morning, my predeparture test at Auriga lab showed I was positive. This happened to more than 30 others. How is that even possible?” wondered Hari Mallabadi, a Rajajinagar resident and businessman who was scheduled to be part of the Indian pavilion at the ongoing Dubai Expo.

The protesters claimed that those who took the re-test by paying the additional Rs 3,000, were issued a Covid negative report within minutes with the same QR code. “Those who refused to pay and were given re-tests by Auriga staff for free were all issued positive reports again,” said Judaea Van Buerle, a woman flyer who missed her flight to Dubai.

The manager and staff of the lab refused to comment and attempts to reach their spokesperson proved futile. However, airport sources said the commotion has become a daily affair and touts decide whether passengers can fly. Many who were declared positive by the lab, tested negative minutes later at private labs on their return home after missing their flights to UAE.

31/01/22 Petlee Peter/Times of India

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