The Uttarakhand government has ordered an investigation into allegations that fake Covid-19 test reports were issued by a private laboratory roped in for conducting random tests during the Kumbh Mela, with other labs, too, likely to come under the scanner.
The grand religious festival, which saw lakhs of devotees congregating in a pandemic year, was held from April 1 to 30 in an area spread across parts of Haridwar, Dehradun, Tehri and Pauri districts.
The issue of fake reports emerged when the ICMR flagged the case of a Punjab resident with a senior Health Department officer in Uttarakhand. Sources said this person, who was in Punjab during the Kumbh period, received an SMS that his sample had been collected for a Covid-19 test. He reported the matter to ICMR through email alleging that his Aadhaar and mobile number had been misused for a fake test.
The Uttarakhand official conducted a preliminary inquiry into all the tests done by that particular lab during the mela and recommended a detailed inquiry after finding that more such fake reports were issued using details of different people.
The lab that is facing the inquiry had been assigned the task of conducting Rapid Antigen tests in the mela area.
At least 24 private labs were roped in — 14 by the district administration and 10 by the Kumbh mela administration — for conducting random testing of Kumbh visitors.
Notably, the Uttarakhand High Court had set a daily testing quota of 50,000 tests during the Kumbh Mela.
Haridwar District Magistrate C Ravishankar said a three-member committee under the Chief Development Officer has been constituted to conduct the inquiry.
He said tests done by other private labs will also be investigated on the basis of the findings from the first lab. The committee has 15 days to submit its report.
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.
Mela Health Officer Arjun Singh Sengar said the mela administration had roped in 10 ICMR-approved private labs which conducted over 2.52 lakh tests — including both RT-PCR and Rapid Antigen Tests — during the Kumbh period. The cumulative payment owed to them is Rs 9.45 crore.
Sengar said a nodal officer has been deputed to check Specimen Referral Form IDs and other data before clearing the payment for the other labs. The lab under investigation, too, is yet to get paid.
A senior official said: “Such matters have come to notice in the past as well and it was found that phone message goes to another persons due to wrong submission of IDs and contact details due to typing error. In many cases, people provide wrong details to authorities to avoid tracing if found positive.”