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Limpopo health department warns against bogus Covid-19 researchers

Limpopo health MEC Phophi Ramathuba
Limpopo health MEC Phophi Ramathuba

The department of health in Limpopo has warned communities not to fall for a scam run by people who claim to be Covid-19 researchers who demand to draw people's blood for "coronavirus testing".

The warning came after some residents of  Talana informal settlement in Tzaneen reported that they were approached by two unknown men who asked to draw their blood as part of the bogus research.

Provincial health spokesperson Neil Shikwambana said the department has been made aware of the imposters conducting the bogus research. “Any researcher who claims to be from the department or conducting research under the permission of the department will only visit communities through established structures such as local councillors, health officials and traditional leaders. Currently, the department has not mandated any research like the one carried out by bogus researchers," he said.

It is alleged that the two men claiming to be from the national department of health in Pretoria arrived in a white unmarked car  on Wednesday and Thursday last week and asked the community to partake in the bogus research.

A community leader, Nyiko Shikwambana, said he was approached by the men who introduced themselves as officials from the department of health. “They were having a satellite map of Talana and added that there were about 15 households which were identified as part of the research. They said part of their research was to draw blood in order to see why we are not getting infected  from coronavirus,” he said.

Shikwambana said he refused to participate,  as did other community members. “I knew that you can’t do Covid-19 test by drawing blood, hence I refused to participate. I then left them and referred them to another community leader,” he said.

 The community leader, Comedown Netshifhefhe, said: “When I heard that they were here I went to them to understand their mission. They told me that they were here to complete screening because they didn’t finish during the first wave.” 

Netshifhefhe said he escorted the two as they went to the identified households. “They told me that they were working for a non-profit organisation that works together with government. Out of the 15 households,  three refused to participate,” he said.

He added that the men also asked residents if they were having any symptoms for Covid-19. “I didn’t see them drawing blood from anybody and they were wearing mask and a safety apron. They said they will return to bring sanitisers [to residents],” he said.

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