AUTHENTICITY

Lancet launches USSD verification service for Covid-19 lab reports

To authentic a lab report, one only needs to dial *727# .

In Summary

• The new service aims to protect the public from unscrupulous persons outside Lancet who have been issuing fake lab reports under Lancet’s headers, putting lives and health of Kenyans at risk.

• To authentic a lab report, one only needs to dial *727# followed by the reference number on the lab report to be verified, followed by #.

A nurse holds a completed test with patient samples at a drive-through testing site for coronavirus.
A nurse holds a completed test with patient samples at a drive-through testing site for coronavirus.
Image: REUTERS

Lancet has launched a free, 24-hour USSD mobile phone service enabling Kenyans to instantly verify the authenticity of Covid-19 lab reports bearing Lancet_PLK headers.

The new service aims to protect the public from unscrupulous persons outside Lancet who have been issuing fake lab reports under Lancet’s headers, putting lives and health of Kenyans at risk.

To authentic a lab report, one only needs to dial *727# followed by the reference number on the lab report to be verified, followed by #.

If the report is authentic, a message will be received displaying unique identifiers on the report including the patient’s name, age, sex, report collection date and test requested—which should all exactly match what is on the report.

Consultant Chief Pathologist Ahmed Kalebi said any mismatch would indicate that the report is not genuine. Actual medical results will remain private.

In addition, if the Lab Ref number is not on the Lancet_PLK database, the message returned will indicate that there is no record of that Lab Ref number in the results database.

The new service eliminates the hassle of contacting Lancet_PLK to authenticate Covid-19 lab reports.

It’s currently available through the Safaricom network and will soon be extended to Airtel.

The USSD service will be useful to the general public, learning institutions, corporates and companies employing independent contractors, sports facilities, law enforcement agencies, courts of law and others who often need to quickly confirm the authenticity of Covid-19 lab reports presented to them.

The innovation was necessitated by numerous complaints and incidents from the public and correspondence from the law enforcement agencies such as the Office of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations, whereby fake Covid-19 reports alleged to originate from Lancet_PLK, have been presented and later confirmed to be forgeries.

In November, officials arrested 21 people accused of attempting to use fake "Covid-free certificates" to travel from Kenya to the United Arab Emirates.

It came after the UAE issued a visa ban on Kenyans, allegedly after visitors were found using forged certificates.

"This racket is being masterminded by unscrupulous people who hoodwink or lure the public to obtaining fake reports instead of having genuine tests done," Kalebi said.

The free USSD service is separate from the Trusted Travel System that is available for outbound travellers used by Ministry of Health and Immigration officials to authenticate reports at the airport and borders.

Lancet_PLK remains committed to its legal and moral obligation to ensure that our services are conducted in a manner that protects our clients and the general public.