Minister falls victim to ‘moronic’ Covid prank
Brad Hazzard, the health minister of Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), said people are undermining pandemic response efforts by registering fake positive Covid test results.
Under the system launched in NSW last week, people must log their positive rapid antigen test results online through a state-run app or website. The measure helps officials track the spread of the Delta and Omicron variants of the virus and tailor the response to the pandemic.
However, someone decided to misuse the system to prank the state’s top health official, as Hazzard himself revealed on Tuesday.
“Some people think it’s a joke. Or maybe it’s worse than that – perhaps, it’s malicious,” a visibly angry Hazzard told reporters. “I can now speak from personal experience. I received notification yesterday and again today… that apparently somebody has put my name in there.”
“First of all, it’s extremely irresponsible,” the minister said. “It is juvenile, it is moronic, but it is also just so disappointing to think that you would actually undermine an incredible, hard-working public health team here in New South Wales trying to keep us safe.”
Police launched an investigation into the fake test results under Hazzard’s name. “Not only is this a nuisance, it also corrupts valuable pandemic data relied upon to support essential services. This is not a joke and is a criminal offence,” Detective Superintendent Matt Craft, the state’s cybercrime squad commander, said.
Failure to report a positive rapid antigen test is punishable by a AU$1,000 fine ($720).
More than 50,000 NSW residents logged their test results just hours after the service went live last week, according to Australian Associated Press.
Authorities reported 77 new deaths from Covid across NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and the Canberra capital territory on Tuesday – the highest daily death toll in Australia since the pandemic began.