Covid-19 Omicron outbreak: Offer to sell positive RAT results ‘distressing’

If selling Covid-positive rapid antigen tests on social media is some kind of joke, University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker says “it’s not funny”.

A post on the Otago Flatting Goods Facebook page is offering four positive tests, saying: “Have you been overworked due to high demand and short staff? Feel like a 10-day break?

“Well, have I got the deal for you, 4 positive tests for sale (aka get out of jail free cards).

“These are in very good condition with minimal use, in fact have only just been taken out of the original packaging. As is where is. Must be contactless pick-up.”

Baker was not impressed when told of the ad yesterday, calling it tantamount to fraud.

He believed it had the ability to damage New Zealand’s faith in the testing system if people were using the tests in a fraudulent way, and it would have a negative effect on businesses that were struggling to continue working during the height of the Omicron wave.

“It’s no joke. If you are using some method to defraud your employer by having them support you with a period of sick leave, I would have thought that was criminal behaviour.

“Certainly, it sounds like a form of fraud, at the very least a deception of your employer.

“The other thing that I think is particularly distressing about this sort of behaviour is that we know one of the features of the Omicron wave is that not only does it make people very sick and put them in hospital, it also puts a huge strain on essential services.

“People taking sick leave when they are not sick could make the worker shortage even more intense.”

It was the worst time for people to be acting in this way, “Let’s hope there is quite a decisive response to this kind of behaviour,” he said.

A police spokeswoman said police were unable to comment.

Baker said it was unlikely the Covid-positive tests were fake.

“Basically, the tests are very specific and they are identifying one of the proteins that form the virus.

“It’s a chemical reaction and it’s designed to home in on the structure of that protein.”

University of Otago immunologist James Ussher confirmed the tests themselves would not be able to spread the virus because the testing process made the virus inert.

The person responsible for the Facebook post had not responded to calls for comment.


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