Indonesian lab workers arrested as police find reused test kits

Police have arrested employees at a Kimia Farma lab located at Kualanamu International Airport in North Sumatra, who allegedly reused antigen rapid test kits on customers to cut costs. Photo: Istimewa
Police have arrested employees at a Kimia Farma lab located at Kualanamu International Airport in North Sumatra, who allegedly reused antigen rapid test kits on customers to cut costs. Photo: Istimewa

Police have arrested employees at a Kimia Farma lab located at Kualanamu International Airport in North Sumatra, who allegedly reused antigen rapid test kits on customers to cut costs.

The North Sumatra Police said it sent an undercover officer to take a rapid antigen test at the lab following complaints from passengers over the past week that they received false positive results from the lab.

An undercover cop signed up for the antigen rapid test and had his samples taken with a nasal swab. Some 10 minutes later, the lab presented a positive test result for the cop.

Sensing something was amiss, police officers then raided the lab and gathered its staff, during which they found hundreds of used swab test kits that were going to be prepared for reuse. Authorities said that the swabs ⁠— which must be sterile before they are inserted into the nostrils ⁠— were washed and cleaned after use, and repackaged before they were reused on other passengers.

Used antigen rapid test kits confiscated by the police. Photo: Istimewa
Used antigen rapid test kits and other items confiscated by the police as evidence. Photo: Istimewa

It’s not immediately clear how many people, on average, a single swab was used on.

The police then arrested at least five lab workers and confiscated a number of items as evidence, including the antigen swab test kits in question. 

Indonesian pharmaceutical giant Kimia Farma has released a statement condemning the Kualanamu Airport lab workers, saying that they violated the company’s standard operating procedures. Police have not publicly announced the charges against the suspects.

Domestic travelers in Indonesia, including those traveling by air, are required to undergo either a PCR or antigen rapid test, the result of which is valid for 24 hours.

The antigen rapid test, also known as antigen swab test, is conducted by taking samples of secretions from the nose and throat to detect the presence of certain viral antigens that indicate a current viral infection. The antigen swab test is relatively more affordable than the PCR swab test, though the latter is still considered the gold standard in terms of accuracy.

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