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Scammers Caught Reusing Airport COVID Nose Swabs

by SharonKurheg

Some people are just awful.

Back in 2020, there were a few stories about people forging negative COVID tests (here’s one of them). I’ve already heard several stories about fake COVID vaccine cards. But this one takes the cake.

Police in Indonesia recently arrested several employees of a local pharmaceutical company for allegedly preparing used nasal swabs so they could be reused for airport COVID swab tests.

Local police said they became aware of the alleged fraud when an undercover police officer took a test at Kualanamu International Airport on North Sumatra, and received a false-positive result. The officer later tested negative for coronavirus, the police added.

A total of five employees of Kimia Farma were arrested and accused of washing and repackaging the nasal swabs used in rapid antigen tests at the airport.

Police told CNN they believe the scam occurred from late December 2020 through late April 2021. It’s estimated it could have impacted as many as 10,000 passengers, each of whom paid the U.S. equivalent of about $14 per test. Between 100 and 200 passengers were tested every day at the airport, and authorities think some received “new” tests and others”recycled” tests.

During their investigation, police found recycled cotton swabs, recycled packing, and 149 million rupiah, which is roughly $10,000 in cash.

Police said each suspect had different roles to play in the scam. For example, one person washed the used cotton swabs, another repackaged the testing kits, and a different person would deliver the samples to the laboratory, etc.
Airport officials claim they had no knowledge the scam was happening.
Two passengers who passed through Kualanamu airport on a regular basis were human rights lawyers Ranto Sibarani and Kamal Pane.

Sibarani said he must have taken more than 10 tests during the four-month time frame, and he always felt that something was not quite right.

“It was an awful experience because they did the tests far too deeply and insisted on swabbing my nose several times during a sitting, to the point I complained that the procedure was not being conducted professionally,” he said.

“Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I suspect the reason for having to swab my nose multiple times and do the test so deeply was because they were using rewashed, second-hand swabs which made the procedure more difficult,” he said. “I feel that I am the victim of serious fraud and that I was violated through my nose.”

Sibarani and Pane are planning to claim damages from Kimia Farma of 1 billion rupiah (US$69,000) per affected passenger. They’re currently compiling statements from potential victims of the scam to launch a collective civil lawsuit.

Meanwhile, the suspects have been charged with crimes under Indonesia’s health law, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment if found guilty, and under the country’s consumer protection law, which carries a maximum five-year prison sentence.

Kimia Farma Corporate Secretary Ganti Wiratno told reporters that the company would continue to improve its services.

“We have a thorough repair work process in place to mitigate similar incidents so that they do not happen again.

“The former employees who we have fired will be replaced by other employees who have high standards of integrity and the required competencies for the job,” he added.

Anybody else feel like rinsing their nose out with bleach right about now?

Feature Image: Raimond Spekking / Wikimedia Commons

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#stayhealthy #staysafe #washyourhands #wearamask #getyourCOVIDvaccine

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

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