Unreliable Covid kits penetrate a market

Health authorities have suspended rapid-testing for the new coronavirus till further notice after several states complained about flawed results, mostly from the Chinese-made kits.

  • 28th Apr 2020

Their supplies restricted to government facilities -- and their use paused for now -- rapid-test kits have nevertheless made their way into the commercial market as demands for fast-tracking Covid diagnosis rose, an India Today investigation has found.

Health authorities have suspended rapid-testing for the new coronavirus till further notice after several states complained about flawed results, mostly from the Chinese-made kits.

But India Today's Special Investigation Team found several suppliers of medical-equipment procuring the tools via illegal channels and selling them out among the communities for home-testing.

The reporters, posing as brokers, discovered that these distributors would leave no trail of transactions that could help government authorities trace Covid suspects and their contacts.

At Marlins Medico in Delhi's Rajinder Nagar, cartons of rapid-test kits were found stocked, ready to be shipped out in the city neighborhoods.

When probed by India Today's undercover reporters, its chief Amit Bahuguna promised wholesale deliveries without any paperwork.

"I hope you don't need any drug license from us," the reporter probed.

"No, no. We don't need it. We need nothing for a cash deal," Bahuguna replied. "This is a business in cash. We need nothing else from you. Once this cash deal is done, transaction executed, there's no proof of what I sold and what you bought."

Bahuguna, who guaranteed deliveries in the future as well, demanded Rs 50 lakh in hard cash for a consignment of 5,000 kits, half of it in advance.

"When will you deliver it?" the reporter asked.

"In 2-2.30 hours," the dealer offered.

HOME-TESTING NOT PERMITTED

Per national and WHO guidelines, rapid testing was originally recommended only as a surveillance tool that too in research setting.

Even before the health authorities stopped their use at state-run facilities in India, home testing remained strictly prohibited.

Medical authorities have always been advised to validate test results from the kits through a more reliable laboratory examination of swab samples.

Sumit Bhardwaj at Sintex Medicare in Delhi's Malviya Nagar offered 500 kits for immediate sale.

"You'll get 500 right now, the remainder will be given tomorrow," he told India Today SIT reporters, quoting Rs 4.50 lakh for the consignment.

"FACTORY OWNERS BULK-BUYING KITS"

At Ghaziabad in the national capital region, Anuj Singh and Rajpal Singh of Shiv Enterprises confessed they sold Chinese-made rapid test kits to local factory owners in contact with a large workforce.

"I am selling them for a week now," said Anuj Singh.

"Some people are buying them for personal use. Some people owning 10-20 factories are also buying them. For instance, if they have 200 workers, they are buying them for those employees," explained Rajpal Singh.

According to the duo, their clients procured from 5,000 to 20,000 pieces daily.

To know more visit:
https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/india-today-tv-investigation-on-covid-19-testing-kits-in-private-markets-1672139-2020-04-28

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