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The report said a single phone number is being used to register over 50 people, while one Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kit was shown to have tested 700 samples. The scam could run into crores of rupees as the testing agency was paid Rs 350 per RAT and higher for RT-PCR tests.
At least 1 lakh reports out of 4 lakh COVID-19 tests conducted during the Maha Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, were fake, revealed a media report. The remarks were based on the 1600-page report of the laboratory which was assigned the task of conducting Rapid Antigen tests.
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When the country was battling the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the mega religious event saw lakhs of devotees take a dip in the river Ganga between April 1 and 30 in Haridwar, Dehradun, Tehri and Pauri districts.
The Uttarakhand High Court had set a daily testing quota of 50,000 tests during the Kumbh and about 24 private labs — 14 by the district administration and 10 by the Kumbh Mela administration — were contracted for the job.
Of the 1 lakh tests conducted by the agency under the scanner, 177 were "Covid positive" — a positivity rate of only 0.18 percent. In contrast, the positivity rate in Haridwar in April went up to 10 percent, the Times of India reported.
The issue of fake reports emerged when the ICMR flagged the case of a Punjab resident, whose Aadhaar and mobile number were misused for a fake test, with a senior Health Department officer in Uttarakhand, reported the Indian Express. The report said the person, who was in Punjab during the Kumbh period, received an SMS that his sample had been collected for a COVID-19 test. He alerted the ICMR through an email alleging his Aadhaar and mobile number had been misused for a fake test.
The Uttarakhand government ordered a probe after a series of reports of fake Covid-19 tests by private laboratories during the Kumbh.
Some of the other anomalies include a single phone number being used to register over 50 people, while one Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kit was shown to have tested 700 samples, according to media reports.
"Addresses and names were fictional. Almost 530 samples were taken from ‘House Number 5’ in Haridwar. Is it possible for a house to have over 500 residents? Bizarre addresses have been given-House number 56 Aligarh, House number 76 Mumbai. Phone numbers were fake too. People in Kanpur, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, and 18 other locations shared the same phone number," an official who is part of the investigation told TOI.
Another official added that the 200 sample collectors employed by the agency were students and data entry operators based out of Rajasthan, who in fact had never been to Haridwar.
The report found that a sample collector was someone enrolled in a skill development training programme at a government authorised centre in Hanumangarh, Rajasthan. He had never been to Kumbh and he had been given the data by his instructor, who asked him to upload it as part of his training.
As per officials, this is just the "tip of the iceberg". The testing agency was paid Rs 350 per RAT and higher for RT-PCR tests and the scam could possibly run into crores and test results by other agencies will also be brought under the scanner now, TOI reported citing officials.
The District Magistrate said that if the allegations of fake Covid reports are found true, an FIR will be registered and further action will be initiated.
First Published: Jun 15, 2021 1:22 PM IST