Are Covid Testing Requirements Spreading The Virus?

The Director of the CDC has stated “vaccinated people do not carry the virus, don`t get sick.” Yet vaccinated Americans have to take a Covid-19 test before flying back to the United States and vaccinated travelers from the U.K., which has far less Covid-19 per capita than the U.S., remain banned from even entering the country.

But what if Covid-19 testing requirements are actually spreading the virus?

We already know that results can be faked, especially since the U.S. accepts results from labs all over the world and doesn’t take steps to validate the information provided – just requiring airlines to check whether the information supplied on a test report is ‘all there’.

And when testing is expensive and inconvenient, people revert to fake tests. They shouldn’t but it’s a reality to contend with. Any regime meant to limit virus spread needs to be set up based on how people actually behave.

It turns out that some people who are following the rules, and getting tested for travel, may be getting the virus from their Covid-19 test itself. That’s because, as one airport bust shows, the mechanism for specimen collection in some parts of the world are being reused.

Several employees of a pharmaceutical company have been arrested in Indonesia for allegedly washing and reselling used Covid nasal swab test kits.

Up to 9,000 passengers at an airport in Medan may have been tested with the reused swab sticks, say police. …Police said they believed the scam had been happening since last December at Kualanamu airport in Medan, North Sumatra.

There is a concern not just over false positives from the test (positive results from one passenger contaminating the results of the next) but also spread of virus from one passenger’s nasal swab to the next.

And before you just to the conclusion that this is one bad actor, pursuing a profit by cutting costs while risking safety, because capitalism… the company that did this – Kimia Farma – is government-owned. So it’s a corrupt state manager who used profit from the scam of US$124,800 to “to fund the construction of a lavish house.”

At this point in the pandemic the U.S. isn’t going to keep the virus out. Neither will most other countries. It is already here and spreading. We aren’t going to keep mutations out, either – not only are they already here, but the virus seems to mutate in predictable and similar ways throughout the world. So as long as it’s here it’s likely to independently mutate, even if we keep travelers out.

U.S. travel and testing restrictions are incredibly porous. Americans may have to present a negative test to re-enter the country by air, but not to re-enter by land or sea. And land borders make it impossible to follow a path like New Zealand or Australia in any case.

Yet there are actually people potentially getting the virus, it seems, by going for testing in some parts of the world.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. ‘Up to 9,000 passengers at an airport in Medan may have been tested with the reused swab sticks”


  2. Plus there are more points of contact. In some instances, people traveling may use the facilities that are testing people who think they might have the virus. This has the potential to lead to spread while in line, etc. I had a friend who was afraid to get a test in the country she was in largely because she was more worried about getting the virus from the test site.

  3. So maybe we can learn from the State of Hawaii. The State of Hawaii demands tests from a select group of partners. These partners need to fulfill certain criteria – inspection, turn around time, quality. I would recommend airlines and governments demand similar criteria. I know some people find flying to Hawaii a bit annoying but their safety measures work. Hawaii has the lowest levels of COVID in the US – deaths, hospitalizations, cases per capita. Their testing applies to foreign as well as domestic flights.

  4. Because US suck in having a centralized vaccination verification system and people are selfish so fake certs will be everywhere if just the CDC cards. Can’t believe Europe will allow just a CDC card.

  5. Does anyone believe anything coming out of the CDC or from the royal ferret?
    Just returned from Los Cabos where the resort has a full time nurse administering the antigen test…got the test results in 15 minutes & the paperwork when I checked out the next day…found out from my T/A that the resort transmits the results to the airlines…paper that one gets is just window dressing….if one tests positive & tries to board, they are SOOL!

  6. Pfizer is going to request full approval from the FDA…politically it would be suicide for them to say no…then again, the FDA could say that they don’t have enough data to make a decision…need more!!!
    If that happens, watch out!!!

  7. Next time I’m in North Sumatra, I’ll be very wary.
    Until I get there, I’ll settle for CVS.

  8. Gary, you are consistently the worst blog on boarding area. Sure, let’s cherry-pick a report from Indonesia and put up a clickbait headline that doesn’t relate to any other covid testing that is currently happening anywhere else.

    I just got back from traveling to Guam and Hawaii on government business. they are taking it very seriously. every testing I had to do was an outdoor drive-up location and everything was sealed and sterilized.

  9. Some of the vaccinated don’t develop the common response to being vaccinated and thus end up becoming breakthrough infection cases, people who are infected and can even spread the virus onward still. For such people and those whom they encounter, it’s even more important that there is very high percentage of people who have completed a full vaccination regimen with a very effective vaccine.

    Until a very high percentage of the public is fully vaccinated, testing is a way to mitigate for the risk of people getting infected and spreading this virus and growing the potential pool of troublesome variants and the level of trouble they can cause.

    If there weren’t so many anti-vaxxers — the US and parts of Europe really come to mind as problem spots for that, more so when having been under the influence of Russian influencing campaigns — and still so many people needing to get vaccinated around the world, then testing requirements would probably dry up sooner than later.

  10. @Jones – they don’t identify *which* vaccines were at issue (only offering examples of vaccines given in two doses), the CDC director was referring to research on the mRNA vaccines

  11. If you read the article carefully almost all these cases are people with one vaccine dose or who haven’t completed their 14 day period after a second dose. These are all CDC guidelines not to mention those in Hawaii. Also we know that transmission is 95% blocked not 100%. That doesn’t mean vaccines are a failure. On the contrary this is an amazingly high efficacy rate. The solution – get vaccinated. The more we vaccinate the better chance we have of dealing with this.

  12. I can get a lavish house for $124,000?
    I’m moving to Indonesia.

    I’d have to say , it is the most corrupt country in the area. Don’t rely on any public company financial statements regardless of the auditor

  13. We left Colombia recently and had to be tested at the Bogota airport. Even thought we were both vaccinated, the process of testing (while masked in covid protocal theatre), in the end had folks waiting in a large room breathing in the same air while waiting to pay for the exam. (after payment the wait for the exam was very short, but the real risk to folks was the long wait to pay and filling out the paperwork). There has to be a better way.

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