Fake certificates and PCR-test results have given birth to another socio-economic plague that threatens public health in Pakistan. A day ago, a security guard deputed at the Expo Vaccination Centre was caught getting a certificate made without being vaccinated. Secretary primary and secondary health Punjab took swift notice and booked the accused. The Punjab Health Department (PHD) has reportedly cracked down on fake certificates recently as they got one of their employees arrested who was making fake certificates for a Rs4000 fee. Deeply concerned, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), in collaboration with the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), also launched an app to help users discern real from fake.
As public health authorities scramble to combat false documents, citizens have not played their part. We all know someone who has casually presented a fake certificate to enter a high-end restaurant. Or someone who paid extra to get a test result that was negative, right before they boarded a commercial flight with hundreds of others. These instances where people dupe the system is quite evidently an elite problem, one that gives the opportunity to observe COVID-19 in a whole new socio-economic dimension. While we can all say we know someone who circumvented the law, not many can say we know someone who was caught using a fake. Yet, the guard outside the expo centre and an employee who generated certificates, were promptly brought to justice. Granted, arresting the two was important to enforce the law. Yet, the fact that numerous upper class law breakers escape the purview of authorities, speaks mounds of who would be an easy target in the event of an SOP violation.
It isn’t that authorities haven’t noticed the use of fake PCR test results during travel or the presentation of false certificates in indoor spaces. In May this year, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) expressed concern that travellers from United Arab Emirates (UAE) were using fake results to enter Pakistan. The CAA promptly placed the onus partly on airline operators and said they had to enforce compliance with travel policies. People who produce certificates and test results, however, do not alone share the burden of the blame. As the province flip flops between indoor and outdoor dining allowance, restaurant diners who defy protocol are also liable in this pandemic of falsehood. As the country opens and shuts its borders to passengers, travellers who gamble with the lives of others play a criminal part in spreading the virus. To that end, the abuse of COVID-19 related documentation raises the elite in a whole new selfish light, as they seem unperturbed by and undeterred in their role in the spread of the deadly virus.
Authorities are also making efforts to curb the class-based aspects of the COVID-19. A day ago, an audit report by the Public Accountants Committee (PAC) insisted that NADRA slash vaccine certificate generation fee from Rs100 to Rs25. The PAC report said that this would assist citizens in getting the required certificate easily. While this would be a reprieve for those who cannot even afford to pay a 100 for the certificate, it is abhorrent that several members of the upper class would pay thousands of rupees to procure the same paper, all the while deliberately breaking the law. It is worth observing that in the absence of government facilitated inoculations, the same upper class scrambled to secure private vaccinations in posh hospitals that cost upwards of Rs20,000. Yet, several among them who cannot bear to part with their wanderlust or gustatory impulses, are not even bothered to follow basic pandemic protocol.