Indonesian swabbers allegedly reused nasal tests on airport passengers, producing false results

More than 9,000 travellers in Medan's airport might have been tested with the recycled nasal swabs.

Fiona Tan | May 05, 2021, 10:24 PM

Some employees of Indonesian company Kimia Farma had been found to reuse nasal swab tests for Covid-19 according to a report by South China Morning Post (SCMP) on May 5.

The pharmaceutical firm is alleged to have profited by some S$160,000 since Dec. 2020.

Washed, repackaged and reused

Passengers in Indonesia are required to produce a negative Covid-19 test result before their flight.

To offer travellers some convenience, travellers can opt to be tested directly in Medan's airport using Kimia Farma's antigen rapid test kit, instead of at hospitals and clinics.

Travellers, however, received false test results and submitted complaints and an undercover police officer was sent to investigate according to a report by Detik.

Under the guise of a passenger, the police's swab test returned inaccurately as positive. A police team then raided the premises, who found a used test kit that had been recycled.

Five workers, including Kimia Farma's Medan business manager, were arrested after the raid.

They had admitted to "cleaning" the nasal swabs with 75 per cent alcohol and then repackaging them using double sided tape at the company's main office.

According to SCMP, those involved in the scheme might have made off with around S$160,000 since Dec. 2020, where one of the suspects is alleged to have used to fund the construction of his luxury home.

An average of 100 to 200 passengers get tested at Medan's Kualanamu International Airport daily and more than 9,000 passengers had reportedly been tested using the recycled nasal swab sticks.

Disciplinary action has been taken

An airport official told SCMP that besides the closing and sealing off the Kimia Farma testing centre, it was business as usual in the airport.

He added: “We are now working with other vendors to provide rapid tests and offering a drive through service in the parking area for passengers.”

Kimia Farma, a state-owned pharmaceutical company, promised to enforce tighter internal controls and had since terminated the parties involved, according to the BBC.

The airport official said: “Hopefully this case will be swiftly solved and the police will find out who the main culprits are behind it.”

The suspects, if found guilty, could be jailed for up to 10 years.

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Top image from Lili Alexandra on Google Maps and Berita Solo TV/YouTube