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'Violated Through My Nose': Reused Swab Scam Uncovered

Used swabs were allegedly washed, resold, and reused at airport in Indonesia
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted May 5, 2021 11:33 AM CDT

(Newser) – Just, gross. Police in Indonesia say as many as 9,000 travelers who passed through Kualanamu airport in Medan, North Sumatra, may have had their nose swabbed for COVID with a reused swab. Five Kimia Farma employees have been arrested after being accused of washing the used swabs at their Medan office, repackaging them, and then reselling them, allegedly making about $125,000 by doing so. That company's antigen rapid test kits were the ones used when travelers opted for an on-site test to verify they didn't have COVID versus one done in advance. As the number of complaints about false positives mounted, the BBC reports an officer without COVID went undercover and was swabbed. When the test results were positive, the test site was raided.

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The scheme has reportedly been ongoing since December. Kimia Farma says it has fired those allegedly involved, but it may not have washed its hands of the matter. The South China Morning Post speaks with two lawyers who flew from Jakarta to Medan nearly weekly from December 2020 through February and may launch a civil suit against the company. One of them describes his "awful" experience: "They did the tests far too deeply and insisted on swabbing my nose several times during a sitting," which he now believes was because they were using "rewashed, second-hand swabs which made the procedure more difficult. I feel that I am the victim of serious fraud and that I was violated through my nose." (Read more Indonesia stories.)

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