New Lancet platform helping curb fake Covid tests

Lancet Kenya has launched a mobile phone-based service that helps in authenticating Covid-19 lab reports in a bid to tackle rising cases of counterfeit test results. 

The USSD service, which was rolled out a month ago, enables a mobile phone user to instantly verify Covid-19 test results.

Lancet Kenya chief executive Dr. Ahmed Kalebi said the number of people using the service has risen rapidly since the platform was launched.

 “We are seeing growing numbers of people using the service to authenticate lab reports purported to be from Lancet,” he said.

“We used to receive many calls regarding the same, but now all that is being handled through the automated USSD service. We hope the trend continues as that will improve safety of Kenyans. ”

Dr. Kalebi noted that some of those using the service are companies, learning institutions, sports facilities, law enforcement agencies and courts of law. These organisations, he said, find the service crucial as they need to quickly confirm the authenticity of Covid-19 lab reports presented to them.

Lancet introduced the USSD *727# service following rising cases of people presenting bogus Covid-19  reports claiming they were  from Lancet,  to secure jobs that require a negative Covid-19 PCR test. 

Dr. Kalebi called for a national system to verify Covid-19 lab reports to rid the country of counterfeit reports that are risking lives of Kenyans and undermining the progress attained in dealing with the pandemic. 

Presently, he said, one cannot travel across borders without having authenticated Covid-19 lab results through a trusted travel system.

“This has improved the safety of international travel. Our free USSD service seeks a similar outcome for lab reports circulating locally. But the system needs to be sector-wide to maximise impact,” said Dr. Kalebi. 

To authentic a lab report, one dials *727# followed by the report’s reference number, followed by #. If the report is authentic, an automated message will display the patient’s name, age, sex, report collection date and test requested, which should all exactly match with the lab report presented.

Actual test results will, however, remain private in line with confidentiality requirements. If the report’s reference number is not on the Lancet’s database, this will also be revealed, indicating a counterfeit lab report. 

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