So near and yet so far; this must have been the reaction from about 25 would-be air travellers who were barred from boarding their booked flights at the last minute this past Wednesday at Kamuzu International Airport (Kia) in Lilongwe.
Malawi News can confirm that while the ‘birds’ flew into distant land, the noose tightened for the 25 as the Malawi Police Service (MPS) took them away for allegedly possessing fraudulent Covid-19 clearance certificates.
The Covid-19 clearance document is now a standard requirement for those seeking to travel abroad in the face of the second wave of the Covid-19 attack.
Our sources at the airport said as the 25 attempted to fly out of Malawi, they were immediately apprehended by health officials at the airport before the law enforcers took charge.
MPS spokesperson James Kadadzera has confirmed the development.
“The Issue is in police hands, investigations are underway and we are making progress,” Kadadzera said.
Minister of Health Khumbize Kandondo Chiponda has meanwhile expressed shock and disappointment over the development and has since demanded that all people involved in the issuing of the said ‘fake’ Covid-19 certificates should be investigated.
“Before anyone travels out of the country, they need to get tested, we are doing this so that we protect each other; no sick person should travel because, along the way, they will meet people and can in the process infect each other.
“Getting fake certificate is a recipe for disaster and can increase transmission of Covid-19 so, as a ministry, we will investigate the matter, we will follow appropriate laws and we will seek help from security agencies. We have to catch anyone who is doing this and be prosecuted,” Chiponda said.
One of the forged medical documents, which Malawi News has seen shows one of the would-be travelers having been certified fit for travel, having tested negative for coronavirus well in advance of travel.
Kia Police spokesperson Pilirani Kondwani said investigations are still ongoing.
“I can confirm that we stopped the travellers from going out of the country because their Covid-19 certificates had fake General Receipts, had fake signatures,” he said.
Commenting on the issue, Parent Child Health Initiative (Pachi) Trust Chief Executive Officer Charles Makwenda said government should arrest people people involved in this scam.
“We need accountability by government to all issues concerning Covid-19, the danger is that people want to cash in on the pandemic, the danger is that producing fake certificates will put a lot of people at risk of contracting the disease, there is need to punish everyone who is involved in the malpractice,” Makwenda said
Covid-19 cases are rising in Malawi and government has placed restrictions on public gatherings.
The country has recorded 13, 918 confirmed cases of Coronavirus and 6280 deaths since the pandemic began.
On Thursday, a further 134 infections were reported, according to the Ministry of Health.