Amid growing complaints that some laboratories in Maharashtra's Navi Mumbai were issuing fake COVID-19 negative reports of people, including of those who have died years ago, the civic body has launched an inquiry into the matter.
Commissioner of Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) Abhijeet Bangar said this on Thursday and added that action will be taken against those found indulging in such malpractices.
An activist alleged that some laboratories seek details of the family members of a person visiting the COVID-19 testing centre and then prepare fake negative reports in their name to show that tests have been conducted on all these people in order to claim funding for each test.
Talking to reporters, Bangar said, "I have received several complaints that fake negative reports of COVID-19 tests were being prepared by some testing laboratories. I have ordered an inquiry into the matter and responsibilities will be fixed. We will take appropriate actions against those who found involved in it."
Ankush Kadam, a social activist from Navi Mumbai said, "The modus operandi of some laboratories is that they ask for the details of the family members of a person visiting the COVID-19 testing centre and then prepare fake negative reports in their names. The idea is to show that all these tests were conducted by the lab. The motive is to claim funding meant for each number of test shown on paper."
"If anyone suspected to have come in contact with someone who has tested COVID-19 positive, then that person and his or her immediate contacts, such as family members, should be tested for the infection. It is called contact tracing.
However, some labs are testing only one person, but preparing fake negative reports in the name of that persons' relatives," Kadam alleged.
"I came to know about this malpractice a few weeks back and we exposed it. I wonder what must have been done by these labs in the last eight months," he said.
Vishal Kadam, a resident of Navi Mumbai got this experience.
"Some 20 days back, I had gone for COVID-19 testing of at a nearby centre. They asked me about my family members and within an hour, their negative reports were prepared by the facility. Surprisingly, one report was in my mother's name which said that she has tested negative. But the fact is that she had died three months back," he said.
Another resident Vishal Awale had a similar experience.
"As I came to know that some labs were indulging in such malpractices, I went to a nearby testing centre and told them the name of my father, but didn't tell that he died nine years back. My test was carried out at 7.45 pm and within half an hour I was told that I have tested negative for COVID-19. I was also given my father's negative report," he said.
"All this is nothing but playing with the lives of people's lives. It clearly means claims of contact tracing are faulty and not reliable," he said.
Maharashtra BJP leader Praveen Darekar visited NMMC commissioner office and demanded a thorough inquiry into the matter.
"It is outrageous that laboratories and other testing centres are preparing fake reports to get more funding. I am going to raise the issue with the health department. The commissioner should carry out in-depth inquiry and punish the those involved," the Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Legislative Council said.