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Painted to the finding that nasal sponges have been reused for testing coronavirus by thousands of people, some Indonesian legal professionals are planning to sue a state-owned pharmaceutical firm.

Five Kimia Farma personnel, including its Medan business director, were arrested in the last week by police on charges of washing and repacking cotton swab in the town’s central office and then sent to the International Airport of Kualanamu where they were used to transport suspects.The results of the test are in the midst of a huge rise in human coronavirus infections.

It is compulsory for people to produce a negative test outcome for Covid-19 before embarking on a flight, and many passengers opt for time-saving procedure at an airport rather than a local hospital or clinic.

In conjunction with Kimia Farma (S$870 million), an annual turnover of 9,4 trillion Rupiah, the main pharmaceutical producer and distribution company Kualanamu Airport offered the testing.Local police said the alleged fraud emerged when the undercut police officer tested a false positive result in Kualanamu International Airport. The officer tested the coronavirus negatively, the police added.

Violated Nose Recycled Indonesian
Image Source: South China Morning Post

The Human Rights Lawyers Ranto Sibarani and Kamal Pane traveled from Medan nearly every week to Jakarta from December 2020 until February 2021, to take part in hearings at the Supreme Court of Yakarta, two of the passengers who passed through Kualanamu airport on a regular basis.During that time, Sibarani said he had had more than 10 tests to do, and suspected something was wrong from the beginning.

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“It was an awful experience because they did the tests far too deeply and insisted on swabbing my nose several times during a sitting, to the point I complained that the procedure was not being conducted professionally,” he said.

“Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I suspect the reason for having to swab my nose multiple times and do the test so deeply was because they were using rewashed, second-hand swabs which made the procedure more difficult,” he said. “I feel that I am the victim of serious fraud and that I was violated through my nose.”

Sibarani and Pane plan to claim damages of 1 billion rupiah ($69,000) for each of the passengers in question by Kimia Farma and are compiling statements for the launch of collective civil proceedings from possible victims of this scheme.

The RZ Panca Putra Simanjuntak, chief of police at Medan, told reporters that the recycled fast test kits may affected more than 9,000 people. At the airport, between 100 and 200 passengers, some with real kits and others with repackaged ones were tested daily.

According to Simanjuntak, the motive for the scheme was to gain money, as a fee for Kimia Farma, which was collected by its employees every time a second-hand swab was applied, was charged 200,000 rupías (US$ 14).

Violated Nose Recycled Indonesian
Image Source: South China Morning Post

Since mid-December Kimia Farma’s employees may have bought up to rupiah 1.8 billion (US$ 125,000) said Simanjuntak and added that more than 149 million rupiah (US$ 10,000) in cash had been seized during arrests by the authorities.He said the police are monitoring the infection of passengers by the reused swab.

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An anonymous airport official said that the airport staff were blinded by the news of forged quick tests, while the mood was shocking at the airport.
“We had no idea this was happening and can’t believe anyone would do such a thing,” he said. “The airlines trusted Kualanamu airport to facilitate these tests, but this incident was out of our control.”

The official added that airport operations were usually conducted after the news of the swab scandal and that the police closed the Kimia Farma testing center at the airport.

“We are now working with other vendors to provide rapid tests and offering a drive through service in the parking area for passengers,” he said. “Hopefully this case will be swiftly solved and the police will find out who the main culprits are behind it.”

Since the pandemic began and more than 45, 000 deaths, Indonesia has reported nearly 1.7 million cases of coronavirus. While airport testing is compulsory, the level of public testing and traceability is low. According to the Indonesian Health Ministry figures, just less than 10 million people have receives antigen tests of more than 260 million people.

Pane said Kimias Farma “should stop all rapid testing across the country immediately, and its offices and test centres, to verify further signs of fraud, should be audited by independent teams.”
“We wonder if there is an even larger case to uncover here,” he added.

Violated Nose Recycled Indonesian
Image Source: South China Morning Post

The suspects could be jailed for up to ten years if found guilty under the Health Law of Indonesia. Lawyer Sibarani said Kimia Farma was ultimately responsible, under Indonesian corporate law, for her employees’ actions.
“It is a nightmare to know that a company as big as Kimia Farma could allow this to happen, but pharmaceutical companies all over the world have always been about money and nothing else,” he said.

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“For years these companies have made a profit from people’s health, and this is just another example of their corporate greed. But this is not a typical case, because it involves a deadly virus.”

Source: South China Morning Post

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