Numerous employees of a pharmaceutical firm have been taken into custody in Indonesia for allegedly washing and reselling used COVID-19 nasal swab test kits. According to the police, a maximum of 9,000 passengers at a Medan airport may have been tested with the reused swab sticks.
Indonesia's Reused Nose Swab Scam
A pair of Indonesian attorneys are planning to sue the state-owned pharmaceutical company after the discovery. Last week, police officials arrested five workers at Kimia Farma, including its Medan business manager. They were accused of washing and repacking cotton swabs at the firm's main office in the city. They also reportedly sent them to Kualanamu International Airport, where they were used on travelers.
Indonesia's government has pledged "strict punishment" for many firm staff accused of reusing at a busy international airport. At least five individuals employed by Kimia Farma Diagnostika are accused of such since December 2020, reported ABC.
The employees are accused of using new swabs to test someone. They would reportedly wash, repackage, and use the same swabs to test other individuals, reported Insider.
The idea was basically: Why throw away used nasal swab test kits for the novel coronavirus when they could be used repeatedly? All it took was washing the cotton swabs used to take nasal samples and repackaging them as if they were new.
Kimia Farma is currently facing a potential lawsuit initiated on behalf of the travelers. Passengers are required to obtain a negative test if they would like to fly. The airport provides the option of being administered the swabs on site. Airport authorities had used antigen rapid test kits courtesy of Kimia Farma, reported BBC.
Numerous passengers opt to have the procedure done at an airport instead of a local clinic or hospital to save precious time. Kualanamu airport provided the tests in cooperation with Kimia Farma, a major pharmaceutical producer and distributor, which recorded a yearly revenue of 9.4 trillion rupiahs (US$650 million) in 2019.
Police officials estimated that they reused swabs from 150 kits up to 20,000 times. According to the firm last week, it had sacked the workers allegedly involved and supported a police probing. Indonesia's state-owned enterprises Minister Erick Thohir stated, "I strongly condemn the actions of unscrupulous Kimia Farma officers."
In the scheme since mid-December, the Kimia Farma lab workers could have earned up to $125,000, according to the police chief. The firm was charging around $14 per test, which the lab workers have been accused of pocketing every time the reusing transpires.
The fraud was divulged this week when the laboratory workers were arrested in Medan, Indonesia. They are imprisoned for six years in prison for contravening medical waste, consumer protection, and contagious disease laws.
According to the North Sumatra Police, it sent an undercover officer to receive a rapid antigen test at the lab. After complaints from passengers in the previous week, they received false-positive results from the lab.