The police of Kolkata have arrested three persons for allegedly posing as Covid-19 sample collecting agents from diagnostic labs, after a bank manager who received a false negative report died of the coronavirus disease, the Hindustan Times reported on Sunday. The police are now investigating whether the racketeers had duped others too.
The arrests were made based on complaint filed by the man’s wife. The police said that the man, identified as Bimal Sinha, had seen a doctor on July 20 after he developed a fever and later started to experience respiratory distress. The doctor had arranged for his swab and blood samples to be collected from home as he was not fit enough to visit the lab personally.
“When Sinha’s family contacted the laboratory, the owner sent one youth to collect his swab sample on July 25,” an unidentified police official from Netaji Nagar police station told the newspaper. “A day later, the family was told over phone that Sinha has tested negative.”
When the family demanded a formal test report the next day, the youth’s brother sent them a report with hand written Specimen Referral Form ID along with a WhatsApp message that declared him Covid-negative, the police official added.
The banker’s daughter, meanwhile, told the Times of India that the man who came to collect the samples was not wearing any personal protection equipment.
In the next few days, the patient’s health worsened. His family took him to a private hospital in Baghajatin on July 27, where a CT-scan revealed that he was suffering from a “viral pneumonia”. The doctor told the family he had 99% symptoms of Covid-19 and asked them to shift him to a Covid hospital. But because the family had a report that showed him he had tested negative, multiple hospitals allegedly denied the banker admission.
On the morning of July 28, the man was finally admitted to the MR Bangur Hospital. However, he died half an hour later. When the family tried to claim the body after showing the Covid-negative certificate, the doctors told them the report was fake. “We were informed on July 31 that he was a suspected Covid patient, and hence, his body was cremated following Covid protocols,” his daughter said.
“The swab test report had a handwritten Specimen Referral Form ID with only nine digits,” a doctor from the MR Bangur Hospital told the Hindustan Times. “In original reports, it is typed and has 13 digits. It was a fake report.”
An unidentified police official told The Times of India that the report also had blank spaces and no doctor’s name. “While the first page containing regular blood test reports had the lab letterhead, the second page containing the Covid report was a plain white sheet and the word ‘negative’ was written in pen,” he added.
The three men involved in the fraud were traced from the mobile number through which they had sent the family the report. “The probe has found that Biswajit Sikdar, who has been working at the SSKM laboratory, is the mastermind,” Deputy Commissioner of Police Biswajit Ghosh said, according to The Times of India. “He has been working here for the past month and a half. His brother Indrajit, who was working at RG Kar Hospital for the past four months, helped him. A third person – Amit Pyra – was paid to get work done.”
But, according to the Hindustan Times, preliminary investigation showed that the two people were not attached to the laboratory.