The accused were allegedly performing tests without wearing PPE kits and were not registering patient data online with the government.

A covid health worker using a rapid antigen test kitImage for representation/PTI
Coronavirus COVID-19 Tuesday, October 20, 2020 - 14:44

At a time when COVID-19 tests have become a lot more accessible than the early days of the pandemic, police in Andhra Pradesh’s Krishna district have arrested a group of men for selling COVID-19 test kits and even allegedly performing tests without proper permissions or safety protocols. Police in Nuzvid town seized more than 900 COVID-19 rapid antigen test kits, which were allegedly being supplied from Hyderabad.

Based on a complaint from Nuzvid Village Revenue Officer (VRO), police raided a shop near the Tiruvuru bus stop where they found four rapid antigen test kits initially, Nuzvid Deputy Superintendent of Police (DySP) told the media on Monday. “COVID-19 rapid antigen test kits were being sold in black to the public at a fancy store near Tiruvuru bus stop in the town,” the DySP said.

“On raiding the store, we received information that a man from Hyderabad named Potluri Rajendra was supplying the kits. We took him into custody and seized 954 rapid test kits from him that were being readied for sale,” he said. According to the police, a person working as an assistant at a private lab was also working along with the supplier and store owner, conducting the tests at people’s residences without required permissions from the government or proper safety protocols.

According to The Hindu, the police also said that the accused had been conducting the tests without wearing PPE kits and without registering the details of the patients online with the government. These actions were in violation of government order 336 issued by the state government earlier in July, police said.

The government order includes the rules for COVID-19 testing by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) approved private labs, and also fixed the rates for rapid antigen testing. The login credentials provided by ICMR would be shared with all government and private facilities selected for antigen testing. Private labs cannot charge more than Rs 750 per test, including the cost of test kit, PPEs and manpower, the order added.

The order further specifies that in case of symptomatic patients who test negative in the antigen test, their sample should be sent for RT-PCR testing. All labs doing rapid antigen tests are also required to have a tie-up with an ICMR approved VRDL lab (for conducting RT-PCR tests when required).

The accused were charging their clients up to Rs 3,000 per test, according to some reports. According to The New Indian Express, Nuzvid police arrested three persons — Potluri Rajendra, a medical equipment distributor from Hyderabad, the owner of the store in Nuzvid where the test kits were being sold, Chinta Venkateswara Rao, and their associate Mallela Sudhir Kumar, an employee of a private lab who was allegedly conducting the rapid tests and is reportedly unqualified to do so.

Police officials said they are collecting information from the accused about the people who have approached them for COVID-19 testing so far.

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