[COVIDWatch]: Are COVID-19 test kits being sold on Carousell?

By March 19, 2020 March 25th, 2020 COVID-19, Health

A screenshot of a Carousell listing has been making its rounds on Whatsapp and Facebook.

The listing is for rapid test kits for COVID-19, and was listed by seller ‘blackwhiteconnection’ for $39/box. It is uncertain how many test kits there are in each box.

The screenshot was taken 6 hours after the listing was put up.

We did a quick check on Carousell in an attempt to find the listing, but it appears like the marketplace had already taken it down:

A search on the seller also returns no results:

Are rapid test kits for COVID-19 commercially available?

The idea of rapid test kits for COVID-19 isn’t unheard of, but in reality, they aren’t as straightforward and rapid as what the name suggests.

In a recent commentary by Singapore National Health Group’s Chief Research Officer Dr Benjamin Seet, he mentions that current tests for COVID-19 are laboratory-based, and currently don’t offer rapid turn-around times like that of pregnancy test kits.

Last week, Manpower Minister and Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo shared in a Facebook post that since 5 March, travellers to Singapore who display symptoms need to undergo a nasal swab test. These swabs are then analysed by a test kit developed by the Home Team Science and Technology Agency (HTX) and Veredus Laboratories. She added that the test kit is able to test for a result in three hours.

Over in Thailand, researchers announced yesterday that they have just developed a rapid test kit and plan to launch clinical trials for it next month. The new kit promises to deliver results in 30 to 45 minutes, compared to the four to six hours currently required.

Regardless, this means that even if the Carousell seller managed to somehow procure COVID-19 test kits, a regular person would probably be unable to use it to effectively test for the virus anyway.

Is this photo ‘shopped?

Here’s where it gets interesting. When we performed a reverse image search on TinEye, we were directed to two results.

One, a listing on alibaba.com which claims it is a rapid test kit for HIV. The other search result’s link is broken, but the image file name suggests that it could have been a listing for a rapid test kit for marijuana in urine.

Doing a side-by-side comparison of the labels on the box, it’s also quite evident that the one on the Carousell listing is photoshopped.


Exercise caution where you shop

While it is commendable that marketplaces like Carousell have started to take swift action on rogue listings like this one (perhaps there is more urgency now, given that around 600 people were cheated of about $189,000 in a recently reported Carousell scam), consumers need to be especially wary of standalone ecommerce sites that don’t just lack moderators, but even come with fake reviews and headquarter addresses.

In a time like this, unscrupulous individuals will never cease trying to cash in on the paranoia of the public so consumers should exercise extra caution and do thorough background checks on sellers before choosing to make payment.

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