Fake coronavirus tests could have fuelled outbreaks in Indian officials say
La Deep Majumdar | On 30, Jun 2021
Authorities in India have begun an investigation into supposed forged test results. A government report revealed that some 100,000 coronavirus test results were forged by private agencies who were testing pilgrims at a busy Hindu festival.
Festival blamed for the surge in coronavirus cases.
The Kumbh Mela festival held in April is believed to have caused the surge in coronavirus cases throughout India after pilgrims returned home to their villages and subsequently tested positive.
The festival, which ran through April, drew in millions of pilgrims to Haridwar, a town in Uttarakhand that borders the Ganges river. Unfortunately, the crowds were largely unmasked during the festival, which is said to have added fuel to the fire.
Investigations into fake results
The health officer from Haridwar, Dr Arjun Singh Sengar, who was responsible for Kumbh Mela testing, has constituted a committee of four members to write a report. From initial investigations, it is believed that there were some lapses in testing and many fake results. This gave a false sense of security to the crowds on how safe the festival was.
A false sense of security
The doctor declared that only 2273 tests were positive in his district out of a total of 251,000. However, health experts have questioned the numbers and believe that the state government underreported positive cases. The results made people think it was safe to attend the pilgrimage even though the environment of unmasked crowds was ideal for viral transmission.
According to the government report, at least 100,000 coronavirus tests were fake out of 400,000. These tests were the rapid antigen tests taken during the festival by a laboratory.
Other shortcomings that are blamed for the surge
Another possible shortcoming was how heavily advertised the festival was. Despite many public health warnings by doctors and experts, this festival was heavily advertised across newspapers and encouraged pilgrims to come from afar.
Before the festival, Tirath Singh Rawat, the top-elected official in Uttarakhand, walked and mingled among many pilgrims without wearing a face covering. When he was asked about this, he said, “Faith in God will overcome the fear of the virus”. Rawat then had a positive coronavirus test two days after his final visit to the River Ganges.
What was it that aroused the suspicion of the fake test results?
Uttarakhand officials began to investigate test results after one gentleman from Punjab got a negative coronavirus test result from the Uttarakhand department of health despite not visiting the state. He complained to a leading government body, the Indian Council of Medical Research.
Officials then raised the issue with the state government, which is now leading investigations and have stopped paying dozens of agencies and private laboratories involved in the testing.