Covid: ‘Broken’ PCR system accepts false codes, allowing travel without testing, whistleblower claims

Officials would ‘never know’ if a traveller submitted a fake code on their passenger locator form as there is no way to check that it is valid, according to an insider working for a test provider

The UK’s “broken” PCR testing system is so flawed that it is possible for travellers to enter made-up codes in passenger locator forms as “proof” that they have purchased a Covid test, a whistleblower has said.

Yesterday, i reported how a major loophole in the Covid testing and reporting system allowed travellers to re-use reference codes they had entered on passenger locator forms from previous trips abroad instead of booking a new test.

Now an industry insider has claimed that passengers do not even need to enter a code issued by a test provider in order to avoid taking a test – and any combination of five letters and seven numbers will be accepted by the system.

Under tightened travel rules re-introduced to help limit the spread of the Omicron Covid variant, anyone entering the UK from a foreign country other than Ireland must complete a passenger locator form, enabling officials to trace and contact them if necessary.

Passengers have two days to take a PCR test, which can cost as much as £100. It must be booked before travel, and bought privately.

Test providers are required to submit daily lists to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) of the booking reference codes they have issued to the public.

But the whistleblower said: “It seems there are entirely no consequences if [a] number is fake or never reported. The Government would never know. They may do some due diligence in the future and work out how badly the system failed.

“We can issue any number we like as long as it’s five letters and seven numbers. It doesn’t need to be issued – you could go to the form and put in any code you like that is five letters and seven numbers.”

Test providers are required to submit daily lists to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) of the booking reference codes they have issued to the public. The insider questioned whether these reports are actually checked though.

He claimed that, due to technical glitch, a large proportion of the codes his firm issues does not get reported to DHSC: “There are thousands of codes [issued by] us that the Government has never seen, and those people have arrived in the UK. Those codes aren’t validated in real time.”

UKHSA said: “The Government has put in place the largest network of diagnostic testing facilities in UK history…We remain committed to providing world-class LFD, PCR and LAMP testing as part of our Winter Plan.”

In a previous statement to i concerning travellers re-using old booking reference codes, UKHSA said: “There are legitimate reasons why an individual might re-use a code, such as last-minute changes to travel plans.

“Re-use of codes accounts for only a very small number of cases, and UKHSA has systems in place to detect and prevent the small proportion of re-use believed to be illegitimate.”

In July, I revealed how the NHS Covid Pass scheme allowed people to obtain “freedom passes” by using fake codes for lateral flow tests.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *