Indonesian Police Investigate Reuse of COVID Swabs in Sumatra Airport

Indonesian police are investigating reports that at least 9,000 people have been swabbed with reused antigen rapid test kits at North Sumatra’s Kualanamu Airport.

State pharmaceutical company Kimia Farmaat Kualanamu employees at the airport reportedly washed and then reused cotton swabs used to rub the nasopharyngeal cavity of passengers.

North Sumatra Police Chief RZ Panca Putra Simanjuntak said that the suspects were identified to be Kimia Farma Medan lab business manager PC and his subordinates only identified by the initials DP, SP, MR, and RN⁠.

Panca said PC and his associates were reusing test kits to cut costs since December 2020 and pocketed around the IDR1.8 billion (US$124,552) they saved from their activity for their own use.

Arriving passengers were charged between 200,000 rupiah (S$18) and 300,000 rupiah at Indonesian airports for on-site Covid-19 testing if they did not have negative test results with them.

“In one day, there were between 100 to 200 passengers who took the swab test. If we count just 100 people, multiply by 90 days, that’s already 9,000 people,” said Panca.

It is not yet known whether the reused test kits have actually infected passengers. 

The five suspects have been charged with violation of articles under Indonesia’s health law and customer protection law, which could land them up to 15 years in prison or fined up to IDR3 billion (US$207,576) if convicted.

“We fully support police investigation on the case. What Kimia Farma’s rogue field testers did has harmed the company… and is a severe breach of rules,” said Kimia Farma.

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