Indonesia nasal swab scam: workers accused of reusing Covid tests on passengers at Medan airport

Five employees of large Indonesian pharmaceutical company Kimia Farma were arrested on April 27 for allegedly washing and repackaging rapid antigen nasal swab kits and using them on passengers at Kualanamu International Airport in Medan, north from Sumatra.

Indonesia requires all passengers to provide a negative coronavirus test before boarding a domestic flight, and the company sells the test kits at Medan Airport.

The scam had been going on for about four months, police said.

North Sumatra Police spokesman Grand Commissioner Hadi Wahyudi said authorities are still investigating the number of victims affected by the reused swabs.

“They started their crime on December 17, 2020. If each day they have 50 to 100 clients, the number of victims is estimated at around 10,000,” he said.

The suspects were charged with crimes under Indonesia’s Health Law, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment if found guilty, and under the Consumer Protection Act of Indonesia. country, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Among those arrested is the commercial director of Kimia Farma in Medan. Police said each suspect had different roles to play in the scam, from washing used cotton swabs to repackaging the kit and delivering the samples to the lab.

Police found recycled cotton swabs, recycled packaging and 149 million rupees ($ 10,000) in cash during the raid that caught the five suspects. Passengers paid 200,000 rupees ($ 14) for each antigen test swab.

CNN has reached out to Kimia Farma for comment.

According to Morning Message from South China, two attorneys who have flown over Medan Airport several times in recent months plan to launch a collective civil action against the company for damages of 1 billion rupees ($ 69,000) for each affected passenger.
Indonesian Minister of State Enterprises Erick Thohir said in a Twitter message last week, those involved are expected to be subjected to “very strict punishment.”

Covid crisis in Indonesia

Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world and has experienced one of the worst Covid epidemics in Asia. More than 1.6 million cases and 46,000 deaths have been recorded since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Earlier this week, the Indonesian Ministry of Health confirmed two patients with the Covid B.1.617 variant identified for the first time in India. The country recorded a daily average of around 5,000 cases of Covid-19 last week.

Authorities are concerned about the impact of Mudik’s upcoming holiday, during which tens of millions of people travel to see their families in their hometowns to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan.

To stop the spread of Covid-19 during the Eid festivities, the Indonesian government banned all domestic travel from May 6 to 17. The ban covers public and private journeys, including cars, motorcycles, buses, trains, ferries, ships and planes.

About Jun Quentin

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