Unreasonable Rules Fueled a Black Market in Negative COVID-19 Test Results

Before putting testing rules in place, officials should have considered whether the public would be willing and able to comply.


Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, many governments have implemented policies intended to minimize the risk of infection, but which impose very real costs on people on the receiving end. In the case of COVID testing policies, requirements have frequently been implemented before the means to easily satisfy that they exist. So, it's no surprise that a black market in negative test results has developed for travelers concerned that they'll be stopped at a border or stranded in-transit if they can't produce sometimes difficult-to-source health documents on demand.

Once again, for those who haven't paid attention in the past: people will find ways to bypass the rules if governments impose mandates that seem excessive or difficult to obey.

The black market has emerged as many countries require recent negative COVID test-results before permitting entrysometimes more recent than is easily available.

"It is difficult to get one unless you are a key worker," one British man who wanted to visit Pakistan, which requires tests within 96 hours of the travel date, told the Lancashire Telegraph. As a result, he said, it has become common practice to alter somebody else's documents.

"It is quite simple. Everyone knows someone who has had a Covid test," he added. "You can simply get their negative test and change the name and birthdate to your own. You also put a test date on which is within the time limit required."

In other cases, travelers find that there are illegal vendors prepared to sell negative results to buyers who need documentation.

"Officials in France said Friday that seven people have been arrested for selling false certificates of negative coronavirus tests to travelers at Paris's largest airport, Charles de Gaulle," the Associated Press reported earlier this month. "The Bobigny prosecutor's office said the faked certificates were being sold to travelers for 150 to 300 euros ($180 to $360)."

Some travel agents allegedly offer fake COVID test results among the services they provide their customers now. That an industry struggling to survive lockdowns and border closures is willing to offer a bit of illegal added value to customers trying to evade such controls should surprise exactly nobody.

Dealers in bogus COVID test results are sometimes just building on already established markets serving people who need to cross borders more easily than health officials would allow.

"At the main bus terminus in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, travellers heading to neighbouring Zambia can be tempted by offers of counterfeit travel vaccination certificates. A thriving black market there sells a fake proof of immunization for between US$ 15–20," the World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledged in October.

Some buyers of bogus test results are obviously interested in purchasing counterfeit documents so they can conceal infections that would otherwise limit their mobility; that's unfortunate, but inevitable. But as many news reports make clear, the black market in negative COVID tests often results from demands by officialdom that travelers provide documentation they just can't procure on time or at a reasonable price. As the UK's Daily Telegraph notes, "a 'fit to travel' Covid certificate is the new holiday must-have, but obtaining a PCR test can be expensive, time consuming and complicated. Is it any wonder, then, that reports are emerging of illegal counterfeit certificates?"

Inevitably, governments have turned to tougher enforcement mechanisms and tighter controls in hopes of fighting the COVID test black market.

"The state of Hawaii, for example, requires visitors to preregister in their online testing program, use an approved testing partner, and upload results to a digital portal," reports The Washington Post. "Paper copies are not accepted."

For its part, WHO touts a "safe and approved digital verification system for travellers' immunization" as well as for COVID-19 test results. The idea is that high-tech systems will make it more difficult to pass through border controls with counterfeit health certifications.

Registration, digital verification, and arrests might help limit the reach of the black market. But it's not like enforcement efforts aimed at illegal businesses are new. Officials are likely just embarking on yet another contest with underground dealers who are at least as innovative as their government counterparts.

More productively, the company developing the digital verification system, Vaxiglobal, is also working on improving inventory controls for existing vaccinesand presumably for COVID-19 vaccines once they become availablewith the aim of reducing expensive waste. They hope more efficient distribution will make them available at prices competitive with counterfeit certifications.

Likewise, some airports now see a ready market in making available the tests required by the destinations they serve.

"Passengers flying from London Heathrow to Hong Kong will be able to have a rapid Covid-19 test at the airport before checking in," according to The Guardian. "The tests, which must be pre-booked, cost £80 and results will be available within an hour."

Airports and airlines elsewhere have moved to offer similar testing so that their passengers have access to the means for satisfying health requirements.

Offering easy and affordable COVID-19 testing is a sensible way of addressing rules that were implemented before compliance became widely feasible. It won't address the problem of travelers trying to conceal positive test results and potential infections. But it will make dealings with the black market less necessary for healthy travelers who previously had no reasonable means of obtaining the certifications that they need.

All of these shenanigans could have been avoided if, before putting COVID testing rules in place, government officials had considered whether the public would be willing and able to comply. Then again, considering the reasonableness of rules isn't really something that government officials do.

NEXT: Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Is 95% Effective

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  1. “Unreasonable Rules Fueled a Black Market in Negative COVID-19 Test Results”

    Totally unforeseen. By idiots…

    1. I’ll bet they foresaw it, but didn’t care. They needed to be seen doing something, and this was something. Who cares if it works as intended or works at all?

      1. The few who did foresee it probably also foresaw the predictable increase in enforcement opportunities.

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  2. “The state of Hawaii, for example, requires visitors to preregister in their online testing program, use an approved testing partner, and upload results to a digital portal,” reports The Washington Post. “Paper copies are not accepted.”

    Sounds lucrative.

    1. State-run cartel. Or am I repeating myself?

    2. I was planning to visit Hawaii before all this went down. They have revealed themselves as not very welcoming to tourists. I’ll drive to a national park instead.

      1. They are literally and politically to the left of California.

    3. “The state of Hawaii, for example, requires visitors to… blah, blah, blah”

      Or, you could just not go.

  3. unreasonable vaccine demands for a disease not requiring a vaccine led to black market something something

  4. very simple….. if you require the test, you must provide it. rapid tests done at ports of entry would let countries have the safeguards they want while not putting a potentially unachievable burden on the people entering. several airlines also include testing provided to the passengers. there really is no reason for there to even be a gap in access to tests to meet requirements, because those imposing the requirements should be providing the tests.

    1. Again, you propose mandating a technology that simply doesn’t exist. It definitely didn’t exist when these requirements were made. Even if such a test exists, there’s no guarantee that it would be available in quantities necessary.

    2. No guarantee of an accurate result.

      So you’re wasting money by booking the trip and the testing.

      Send a message and cancel all travel.

  5. “Submit to Daddy Gov.”
    -J.D. Tucille

    1. “Comment instead of read.”

  6. Wow. It’s almost like they can’t control what people do.

  7. You had me at “rules”

  8. Before putting testing rules in place, officials should have considered whether the public would be willing and able to comply.

    California doctors’ top brass attended French Laundry dinner with Newsom

    California Medical Association officials were among the guests seated next to Gov. Gavin Newsom at a top California political operative’s opulent birthday dinner at the French Laundry restaurant this month.

    CEO Dustin Corcoran and top CMA lobbyist Janus Norman both joined the dinner at the French Laundry, an elite Napa fine dining restaurant, to celebrate the 50th birthday of lobbyist and longtime Newsom adviser Jason Kinney, a representative of the powerful interest group confirmed Wednesday morning.

    1. And where were antifa and LBM rioters to peacefully protest this gathering?
      A few bonfires of wine casks would have been called for in a real revolution.

    2. Hush, peasant!

  9. “*Unreason*able Rules Fueled a…”


  10. I am sure we’ll have plenty of woke scolds coming here to say we must comply or else.

  11. So a country establishes rules as to who can and can not enter, and some people cheat and illegally circumvent those rules. But the fault lies with the governments imposing the rules.

    The US government establishes rules as to who can and can not enter, and some people cheat and illegally circumvent those rules (illegal immigration). But in this case it is the immigrants who are at fault for breaking the law.

    I know many support the first, and many support the second, but does anyone here support both statements?

    1. I know many support the first, and many support the second, but does anyone here support both statements?

      I support both statements, but I don’t think your fingers typed what your brain intended.

      Reading the tea leaves of your retardation, the US Government’s (and others) requirements for entry have been long-standing and can be submitted at any consulate port of entry at pretty much any time and aren’t intended to prevent the entry of any single foreigner.

      The idea that a government can prevent the spread of a virus but can’t prevent people from drawing welfare when they shouldn’t or consuming public resources they weren’t taxed for is as stupid as the oxymoron (you think) you’re proposing.

    2. Interstate travel is different than international travel. Freely traveling between states has been held to fall under “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States”. Absent this protection, a state is free to arrest you for driving without a license, or ignore your marriage (gay or otherwise), impound your car for not having a proper tag, etc. because you don’t have the proper permission from THAT state to have those licenses. Absent this protection, states could impose entry taxes, stopping people at the borders with neighboring states to extract their fees.

  12. Bastiat is still waiting to get his due.

    What’s an unintended consequence?

  13. Hey Tucille, you were all things Sweden in the summer. If you wrote about COVID you usually were telling us how great Sweden’s attempt at herd immunity, one to be followed,was such a success.

    Not so much from you these days. Why? Because they’ve closed museums and libraries? Limited public gatherings to 8 people only? Closing bars at 10 PM, like NY? COVID is raging there too, and their mortality rate is 10 times higher than Norway and 5 times higher than Denmark, their neighbors.

    Back in May their chief epidemiologist Tegnell said:

    “In the autumn, there will be a second wave. Sweden will have a high level of immunity and the number of cases will probably be quite low.”

    Ooopps! But you too thought herd immunity was the cats meow. And now in Sweden? Their PM, after adding new restrictions, said:

    “This is the new norm for the whole of society and the whole of Sweden. “Do not go to the gym, do not go to the library, do not have dinner parties, do not have parties. Just cancel it.”

    I’ll tell you, you’re better off using South Dakota as your example these days…they’ve done nothing. Of course, COVID is raging there. If they were a country, they’d have the third worst mortality rate in the world. Oh, number one? It would be North Dakota. Must be states run by Dems, no?

    1. Must be states run by Dems, no?

      Are there even enough people living in retirement homes in the Dakotas to approach Deblasio/Cuomo’s kill count?

    2. Why are you happy people are sick?

    3. Sweden’s numbers are still much better than most of the world. Don’t get your panties in a bunch.

  14. Or just bribe somebody. Since it always comes down to a person to either bar or permit your entry, bribery is most efficient.

    1. Bribes are good when there’s no cameras or supervisors. Airports have too many of both.

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  18. I guess we learned nothing from prohibition.

  19. Prohibition Portia prosecutor Mabel who starting in 1925 suggested the Internal Revenue Bureau approximately confiscations. The case gutted and the Manly Sullivan case ditched making dealers liable for filing tax paperwork reporting illegal income

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