Home Covid-19 Updates Toying with people’s lives as pharmacies sell fake COVID-19 rapid test kits

Toying with people’s lives as pharmacies sell fake COVID-19 rapid test kits

COVID-19 testing kit

Toying with people’s lives as pharmacies sell fake COVID-19 rapid test kits. As the country grapples to contain the coronavirus, opportunists are taking the crisis as a gold-paved pathway to fortune, even if it comes at the cost of human lives. Immorality really know no bounds.

Some pharmacies and individuals are illegally selling unapproved and mostly faulty COVID-19 rapid test kits for prices ranging from US$35 to US$55 per unit. A box containing 25 test kits costs around US$900. The cost also includes testing services.

Daring traders are marketing their products and services on social media platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp. But the more cautious ones are making use of word of mouth.

Government has outlawed the private sale of test kits and testing of suspected COVID-19 cases outside prescribed medical facilities. This was after it emerged that most of the rapid test kits on sale did not comply with the Ministry of Health and Child Care and World Health Organisation (WHO) specifications and protocols.

Health authorities argue the kits often produce erroneous results. It is a concern that has been flagged worldwide, including in the United States of America.

But the ban fell on deaf ears!

Investigations by The Sunday Mail Society reveal the illegal trade is rife. The dealers are capitalising on non-availability of mass testing in registered healthcare facilities with approved COVID-19 testing kits.

However, the situation is expected to improve after Government recently decentralised testing as part of concerted efforts to ramp up the exercise. Overall, authorities plan to test 1 000 samples of suspected COVID-19 cases per day following last week’s delivery of missing reagents from the Jack Ma Foundation, which recently donated 20 000 test kits.

Also, they received 3 000 rapid test kits, which have since been deployed to provinces. Additional kits were also received from WHO and the Africa Centre for Disease Control. Illegal traders have easily won clients as they are alleged to be working in cahoots with well-placed health personnel. They also deceive potential clients by claiming to diagnose, treat, cure and even prevent Covid-19.

The test kits give results in just 15 minutes. Conversely, Government is using a testing protocol referred to as polymerase (PCR) chain reaction methods, which takes at least five hours to get results.

So close yet so far

Working under cover, we sought to unmask some of the dealers. But trying to disentangle the network or cartels is no easy task as our investigative team later found out. It is usually much easier if you approach the sellers through a third party.

Our initial attempt to get the product hit a snag. An Avenues-based dealer, Shadreck (full name withheld), we were referred to was not forthcoming during our brief meeting. “Who directed you to me? I know you! You are a journalist,” he charged before speeding off, hurling insults. Apparently, Shadreck supplied a kit and tested one of our sources last Saturday.

Sealing the deal

Another potential supplier of the kits based in Newlands, Harare, and operating under the name “Covid Care” gave us a torrid time. The gentleman, who identifies himself as Malvin, is also covertly testing suspected Covid-19 cases.

We discussed prices and his product range through text messages and at times brief calls. But we were unable to meet him in person. Initially he promised to deliver the kit to us. He was also going to do the test in town, but later on reneged.

“I am sorry, demand for our service is a bit high at the moment, hence I failed to make it. We focus mainly on supplying test kits and testing services to big organisations,” he said before referring us to his partner, Faith.

The associate, who claims to be a nurse aide with one of the medical institutions in the Avenues area, is responsible for delivering “small” orders.

We met her at the corner of Baines Avenue and Leopold Takawira Street for a possible deal. However, she did not have the kits on her person. “I left the kits at home in Hatfield. We can go together and I will give you your order,” she said.

Organised syndicates

Along the way, she loosened up — of course sensing a potentially lucrative deal.

“There is huge demand of this product, especially in the leafy suburbs where we operate from. Hospital processes are cumbersome. Besides you have to meet certain criteria for you to be tested. We do away with all those procedures hence most people are turning to us,” said Faith.

Apparently, some of their clients are being referred to them by medical professionals, among them doctors and nurses in various hospitals. In some instances, doctors are suggesting that patients suffering from medical conditions of any sort first undergo Covid-19 testing before receiving treatment.

“Top doctors are helping us to create ‘private channels’ for these sales. They are also fearing for their lives. So when ‘dubious’ patients approach them, some are asking them to produce Covid-19 test results before rendering any form of assistance,” she further revealed.

Zimbabwe Medical Association (ZiMA) secretary-general Dr Sacrifice Chirisa, however, rubbished the claims.

“I do not know of any doctor involved in such practices. In fact, this is my first time hearing about it. We are a law-abiding association that follows Government directives. However, if there is any doctor who is doing so, they should stop forthwith,” said Dr Chirisa.

Obstacle along the way

Our trip to Hatfield was, however, cut short by security services enforcing the 21-day lockdown.

She did not have clearance letter allowing her to travel, thus we had to proceed without her. She gave us directions and instructed her “partner” to give us the order. But this was only after we had paid her in full. However, she became suspicious that we might be State security agents after we had gone through security checks with minimum hassles.

Despite her misgivings, she opted to throw caution out of the window. “Once you get the package, call me for the solvent solution so that we do the test,” said Faith before leaving.

We drove to St Andrew’s Street in Hatfield, where we met a guy who claimed to be Faith’s brother and got our package — lot number 20200315. However, efforts to contact the supposed nurse afterwards were in vain. Thus, we did not get our solvent solution despite paying for it.

Tracking down the initial contact. A day or so after, we tracked down Malvin using a different number in a bid to tie him down for an interview.

Sensing danger, he distanced himself from anything to do with Covid-19. “We do not sell test kits since we are not registered and do not have approval from Government to do so,” said Malvin before switching off his phone. Chief director for preventive services in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Gibson Mhlanga, said the private sale of the kits was unlawful.

“Anyone selling Covid-19 test kits is doing so outside the confines of the law; it is illegal. We are not aware of any individuals or pharmacies that have been registered or approved by Government to sell Covid-19 test kits. Anyone currently doing so must stop,” warned Dr Mhlanga.

The Government official, who is also responsible for information and communication on the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce for Covid-19, made further revelations.

“At one time, we confiscated the test kits that were being sold illegally and all of them were giving the wrong diagnosis. It is dangerous because someone might genuinely have the virus and the test kit diagnoses him/her as negative.”

Source of the kits

Inquiries to ascertain the primary source of the test Covid-19 rapid test kits drew blanks.  However, our investigations indicate that some private companies are importing the kits from as far as Asia and Europe, supposedly to assist Government in the fight against Covid-19, but in turn dump part of the consignment on the grey market.

Source – Sunday Mail

In other news – Robert Mugabe Jnr’s Independence message: My father was a servant of Zimbabweans

One of his notable appearances was when he featured for the Zimbabwean squad in the Zone 6 games held in Harare in 2010. He participated in the games when he was only 18.

Robert MugabeThe controversial Mugabe boy had a message for Zimbabweans on this day as the country celebrates 40 years of independence. Check his message below…continue reading.

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