One tennis player just made fools of all of us

Did Novak Djokovic really contract COVID? A simple antibody blood test would tell us. But it won’t happen. Because we failed on a global scale to curtail forgeries and tricks that render pandemic controls meaningless.

How easy is it to get fake proof that you have COVID? In most countries it is the same cost as any other COVID test. The person or lab doing the test is willing to write “positive” as the result. After all nobody can retrospectively prove otherwise, it may have been a false positive.

How easy is it to get fake COVID vaccination proof? Harder but also not impossible. After a long battle with Greek authorities, my partner just walked into a pharmacy in Berlin at the airport and got her American (genuine) vaccination paper converted to an official European certificate. 10 euro and 2 minutes in total. Could she have done it with fake papers? Hell yeah!

The tennis player just made public what we have all suspected from the first days of the pandemic. There is no way to force people to do anything unless you live in a dictatorship or an incredibly cohesive society. The country I lived in during the pandemic is a prime example of massive hypocrisy. Through a variety of measures the Greek government crippled the economy, destroyed most small and medium size businesses and managed to also kill an amazing number of people. Here is a small comparison during the time AFTER we all received vaccinations.

That’s right. Greece had more deaths compared to its population than similar countries. Or even countries we made fun of as inept. Since all European countries received the same number of vaccines, this was a clear test of governments and Greece obviously has one of the most useless in this respect.

An excellent example is the SMS lockdown measure. For a long time Greeks had to (theoretically) send an SMS before leaving their house. There were categories of reasons to leave the house and (theoretically) after receiving an SMS reply you had to show this to any policeman that stopped you during the curfew. In practice everyone went pretty much wherever they wanted. That is to say us law abiding people sent SMS and followed the lockdown rules but anyone not wanting to follow the rules, pretty freely roamed the land. Some people got fake excuse papers, others didn’t bother knowing that there was no way the police could stop and check everyone. Many of us law abiding citizens also bent the rules when “necessary” to be honest. Essentially let’s admit it, there was no actual rule being enforced.

This is pretty much what was happening globally. At every airport I visited during the pandemic the measures are laughable. In every line I waited to show my papers or flash some “proof” on my phone I couldn’t help but feel certain that a good percentage of the people in front of me have forged theirs. It is too easy to do and too difficult, if not impossible for the thousands of unqualified people suddenly thrust into being pandemic police to actually perform a proper check.

I only once got denied entry and that was incorrectly! A junior gate agent from Turkish Airlines incorrectly denied me entry to the airplane because she didn’t realize that the antigen test I showed her was in local United States time. I don’t blame her. She was alone, trying to figure out the complex rules for each country and receiving conflicting information from her superiors who are also trying to make sense of ever changing rules and regulations from every embassy in the world.

And therein lies the problem. A globalised world with insufficiently globalized information. Europeans managed to coordinate their vaccinations certificates eventually but it is by no means a safe, complete or conclusive system. Because we are dealing with medical data, anyone can throw a spanner in the works by claiming it is personal and sacred. Google and Apple built something amazing at the start of the pandemic but nobody wants to trust them. Politicians can’t deal with uncertainty but that is what science should always thrive towards.

Novak Djokovic raised a middle finger to all the people in the world who have been trying to keep a lid on the pandemic. He also raised the rally cry for antivaxxers and antisocial elements who can now scream “the king has no clothes”.

Unfortunately they are right.

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