‘Papa Smurf’ tests negative for Covid-19 as journalist tricks state-supported system — Analysis

After a journalist tricked the state-supported Covid-19 system for PCR testing, it was exposed to have serious security problems. The test system had been touted to be one of Austria’s best.

All children can take a deep breath of relief that Papa Smurf is not suffering from Covid-19. That’s according to the ‘Alles Gurgelt!’ rapid test system used in the Austrian capital, Vienna. After receiving a negative result from the PCR, the project is supported by Vienna’s government and provides free home testing. Recently, the Covid-19 certificate was issued to the cartoon character.

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After registering using a special app, users can pick up kits from shops to test their health at home. After the purchase of test kits, customers can send their results to an additional retail store.

The verification process involves you filming yourself testing the solution, and then sending the bottle to the laboratory. However, when Kronen Zeitung editor Michael Pommer tried to verify how meticulous the highly-praised verification system was in terms of its procedures, the results weren’t particularly encouraging.

Pommer is now registered with Alles Gurgelt! Pommer registered under his real name Tuesday. However, instead of recording himself gaggling, he took a picture of Papa Smurf, and filled the sample bottles with tap water. Pommer was awarded a certificate. However, it seems that nobody saw the video. “glaring security gaps” in the system, which Vienna’s health minister, Peter Hacker, called “unique in the world,”It is praised as an asset. “central component in Vienna’s fight against the pandemic.”

The minister warned that anyone who tries to receive the certificate – which grants entry to venues such as restaurants, clubs, and hair salons – by tricking the system could face charges of endangering the public with transmissible diseases – and this could mean up to three years behind bars if done intentionally, and up to one year if it is due to negligence. There could also be a fine of up to €1,450 ($1,660).

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The system might not detect all offenders, though, this seems to be the case. Kronen Zeitung says that every day, the program analyses between 100,000-200,000 samples. Random checks are used to evaluate verification data. Each week between 7,000 and 10,000 tests are conducted, but this is just a portion.  

System operators informed the newspaper that they are working on an AI solution to validate uploaded ID photos, identify individuals in testing videos and report suspected cases. The system operators also pledged to increase the number of random checks.
Mid-October saw 10 million test results being analyzed under the program. This program also covered kindergarten and school testing in Vienna.

However, there may be fewer options for people to bypass the government restrictions as Austria became the first nation to implement a nationwide lockdown of unvaccinated persons, which began on Monday.

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