SINGAPORE: Authorities have warned that the use of COVID-19 test kits illegally marketed for home use could lead to the spread of the disease.
The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) is clamping down on such test kits and health products which make false claims related to the coronavirus.
Since February, more than 1,600 warning letters have been issued to sellers and companies, said HSA in a media release on Wednesday (May 6).
The agency has also removed more than 1,700 product listings. Of these, at least 40 were of COVID-19 test kits, offered for sale on e-commerce platforms.
HSA warned that such test kits have "inherent design and technology limitations" which could lead to "incorrect or misleading" results.
"Consumers should be aware that there are no HSA approved home-based test kits; no health supplements or herbal remedies, and no consumer devices approved for COVID-19 diagnosis or treatment," said Associate Professor Chan Cheng Leng, group director of the health products regulation group, HSA.
“Not only do consumers waste money on these unproven remedies, they may put themselves and people around them at unnecessary risk due to the false sense of security.”
The illegal test kits that HSA found on e-commerce platforms ranged in price from S$10 to S$290. Such listings made fraudulent claims like:
“positive results may be visible (in) as soon as 2 minutes”
“95 per cent accuracy and results within 10 minutes”
“diagnose COVID-19 within 10 minutes”
HSA investigations revealed that none of the sellers were found to have any stocks and that the sellers would only import them from overseas after receiving orders.
"NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE"
Health products falsely claiming to fight against or prevent COVID-19 have also been targeted by HSA.
To date, more than 100 online listings have been detected and removed. Companies, which include Chinese medical halls, health supplement retailers and multi-level marketing companies, have also been warned.
In one example, HSA said a TCM clinic sold herbal fragrance pouches touted to have protective properties against COVID-19.
HSA also highlighted health supplements such as red ginseng and Hawaiian spirulina sold online that were promoted as being “good for coronavirus” - a claim which the agency said lacked scientific evidence.
"This is not only falsely misleading, it is ethically wrong," said Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease specialist.
"The public should be wary of these gimmicks. The more impossible the claims are, the more likely it is a dud. Don't fall prey, don't be a victim."
More than 650 warning letters have also been issued to sellers and companies over hand and body sanitisers. The sellers were found to have advertised falsely claims such as “protects against coronavirus”, “kill viruses including coronavirus” and “stops coronavirus”.
Sellers who falsely advertise products as preventing or treating COVID-19 face up to 12 months' jail and a fine of up to S$20,000.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect a correction by HSA on the price range of the illegal test kits.