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Reused nasal swab scam detected at Indonesian airport

Covid nasal swab test has become routine in many countries affected by the global pandemic (file photo)

Several employees of a pharmaceutical company have been arrested in Indonesia for allegedly washing and reselling used Covid nasal swab test kits.

Up to 9,000 passengers at a Medan airport could have been tested with the reused swab sticks, police say.

State-owned company Kimia Farma is now reportedly facing a potential lawsuit launched on behalf of the travelers.

Covid nasal swab testing has become routine in many countries affected by the global pandemic.

Police said they believed the scam had been happening since last December at Kualanamu Airport in Medan, North Sumatra.

Passengers must test negative if they want to fly, and the airport offers the option of having samples taken on site. Airport authorities had used rapid antigen test kits provided by Kimia Farma.

Following complaints from passengers that they received false positive test results, police sent an undercover officer to pose as a passenger last week, local media Detik reported.

When he was rubbed and received a positive test result, other officers broke in and raided the testing site, where they found a used test kit that had been recycled.

Last week, five Kimia Farma employees – including the company’s Medan manager – were arrested. The suspects are accused of breaking health and consumer laws by washing nasal swab sticks and repackaging them for sale.

Local media said authorities had compiled the reports of 23 witnesses and were investigating whether the profit from the scam – estimated at around 1.8 billion rupees (£ 89,700; $ 124,800) – was used to fund the scam. construction of a sumptuous house for one of the suspects. .

Kimia Farma, headquartered in the capital Jakarta, has since fired the staff involved and vowed to tighten internal controls.

Reused nasal swab scam detected at Indonesian airport

Indonesia has banned domestic travel at the end of Ramadan this month

This week, two lawyers who have frequently flown through Kualanamu Airport in recent months said they plan to sue Kimia Farma, the South China Morning Post reports.

In a collective lawsuit, they hope to get 1 billion rupees for every passenger who has been affected by the program.

Earlier this week, Indonesian authorities said they had identified two cases of the new variant of Covid first seen in India.

Last month, Jakarta stopped issuing visas to foreigners who had visited India in the previous 14 days.

The Muslim-majority nation has also banned domestic travel at the end of Ramadan this month, a period that traditionally sees people traveling across the country to visit relatives, and introduced increased restrictions on others. dates.

Indonesia has experienced one of the worst Covid outbreaks in Asia and, overall, has recorded around 1.7 million positive cases and more than 46,000 deaths linked to the pandemic.

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