Many countries require a negative coronavirus test for entry. For example, you need a negative test within three days of travel to fly to the United States, regardless of whether or not you’re vaccinated. There are many other destinations with similar policies.
I’m not trying to debate the merit of this. Personally I see both sides:
- On the one hand, it can’t hurt to get tested (well, minus hurting your wallet), especially with case numbers as high as they are in many places
- On the other hand, I don’t understand blanket testing requirements; for example, I could maybe see merit to testing an unvaccinated person traveling from the UK to the US, but does it make sense to test a vaccinated person coming from New Zealand to the US?
All of that is a tangent to the main point that I wanted to address. As you’d expect, the need for prompt testing for travel has created a huge new industry, which many entrepreneurs in the medical(ish) field have taken advantage of.
That being said, I can’t help but feel like increasingly some of these testing services don’t seem very legitimate. I’m not talking about major testing centers at airports, or those done through pharmacies or other reputable businesses, but rather the “doctors” that will come to you to test you, whether you’re at a hotel, or elsewhere.
Just to give a few examples, both from firsthand experience and what I’ve heard from close friends:
- I recently got tested for travel, and at no point was my ID checked, but rather I was asked to write down my name; that’s not a huge issue, but I could have just as easily had someone else take the test for me
- The time before that, I got tested at my hotel; after the swab was placed up my nostril, it wasn’t placed in the typical tube, but rather the “doctor” tossed it straight in his briefcase (which is kind of disgusting on many levels)
- Another time, the guy performing the test talked to me about how he has been performing tests all day every day for a year, and has never had anyone test positive, which sure makes you wonder (and this wasn’t in a country with low case numbers)…
- A friend recently got a PCR test taken at his hotel (not a rapid antigen), and 20 minutes later he got his letter confirming he was negative; I’m not saying that’s totally impossible, but unless the offsite lab was in the basement of the hotel…
- Another friend told me that he recently got a rapid antigen test, and the person conducting the test claimed he was negative a moment after the swab was taken out of his nose, before being put into that little testing device
Maybe these situations are rare and I’ve just had some outlier experiences, but I can’t help but feel like the industry is getting kind of shady. The reality is that these testing companies make money based on how many people they test, and not based on the actual results. As long as they put something on official letterhead stating you’re negative, that’s all that matters. And if they don’t get caught and they’re just in it for money, well…
A huge new industry has been created as a result of coronavirus. While testing in general is great, the for-profit travel testing industry has become pretty big. With most countries (fortunately) not stipulating that you have to use a specific lab, you have an endless number of places to get tested.
Based on some recent experiences, I can say with certainty that “best practices” aren’t always being used. With any industry of this size there are always going to be some bad apples, including the practice of faking test results. What I’m curious about is how widespread this is.
Has anyone else had a “suspicious” coronavirus test situation for travel? Am I the only one who wonders if at least some of these companies are actually analyzing the results?