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Staff at an Indonesian pharmaceutical company have been accused of washing and repackaging used Covid nasal swabs, which were then sold to thousands of unsuspecting travellers.
Five employees from the state-owned Kimia Farma have been arrested, while the company may also face a civil lawsuit over the claims.
Police believe up to 9,000 people may have been tested with a reused swab kit while travelling through Kualanamu airport in Medan, North Sumatra. Anyone taking a domestic flight in Indonesia must provide a negative result from a rapid antigen test, which is often conducted on site at an airport.
Five employees from Kimia Farma, which supplied the airport, are accused of washing cotton swabs with alcohol before repackaging them – a violation of health laws and the consumer protection act.
Police are also investigating whether profits from the alleged scheme, estimated to be around 1.8bn rupiah (£89,712), were used by one of the employees to fund the construction of a new house, according to local media.
Erick Thohir, minister for state-owned enterprises, said those implicated should be “subject to very strict punishment”.
Kimia Farma sacked the staff members, and said in a statement that their actions were a breach of its standards.
Two lawyers who flew from Kualanamu airport regularly and believe they were tested with second-hand kits told the South China Morning Post that they planned to sue the company. The lawyers said they were in touch with other potential victims, and would file a collective civil lawsuit seeking 1bn rupiah for each affected passenger.
Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, has recorded the highest number of cases in south-east Asia, and more than 46,130 deaths.
The country has registered about 5,000 cases daily over the past week, down from a peak in late January, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. However, health experts are concerned about increased travel before the Eid holiday, when large numbers of people usually return to their home towns to visit relatives. A travel ban will be imposed from Thursday, though it is feared many have set off early, and local media reported an increase in traffic on Wednesday.
The health ministry confirmed this week that it had recorded two cases of the more infectious strain that was first detected in India.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Workers at Indonesian pharma firm arrested over ‘reused’ Covid swabs | Indonesia