Indonesia cops investigate reuse of cotton swab in Covid-19 tests by rogue testers at airport

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JAKARTA – Indonesian police are investigating a case involving officers of state pharmaceutical company Kimia Farma who reused cotton swab on passengers during Covid-19 antigen rapid on-site tests, at an airport in North Sumatra province.

The cotton swab used to rub the nasopharyngeal cavity of the passengers at the Kualanamu international airport was washed and then reused on other passengers, police said. The police have yet to find the motive.

Each traveller is charged between 200,000 rupiah (S$18) and 300,000 rupiah at Indonesian airports for the on-site Covid-19 testing, if one does not show any proof they tested negative of coronavirus in the past 24 hours. Tests are also conducted on arriving passengers.

Such tests are available at private clinics, hospitals as well as drive-through facilities by various mobile phone online Apps.

The North Sumatra provincial police special crime division conducted a raid at the airport on Tuesday (April 27) afternoon following a suspiciously high number of complaints filed by people who were turned away from the airport after testing positive.

Police detained a number of testers and seized evidence during the raid.

“We are looking into it,” North Sumatra police chief Brigadier General Dadang Hartanto said.

In a statement sent to reporters on Wednesday, Kimia Farma said: “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 rule,” said its chief executive Adil Fadilah Bulqini.

The investigation followed the Indonesian government’s move on Monday to temporarily ban all foreign visitors who have visited India in the past 14 days.

Indonesians returning from or having travelled to India in the past 14 days will be put in a 14-day quarantine and be subject to case analysis with genetic sequencing to detect any possible faster-spreading coronavirus variants.

New variants of the coronavirus, first detected in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil that appear to spread more efficiently, were reported to have fuelled infections in India. The South Asian country relaxed its guard as these new variants were spreading.

Indonesia has so far had successful runs of vaccination with about 12 million of its population having received the first jab of the vaccination, and 7.2 million having received the second one.

The world’s fourth most populous country had 100,256 active coronavirus cases on April 27, a significant decline from around 177,000 at the peak in early February.

India currently has around 2.9 million active cases, from as low as around 138,000 in February.

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