Health workers in Bangladesh charged with selling fake COVID-19 certificates

Garment workers after factories reopened in May in Dhaka. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 11 July 2020

Health workers in Bangladesh charged with selling fake COVID-19 certificates

  • The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) said on Thursday that it would launch an investigation into irregularities at Regent Hospital

DHAKA: More than a dozen Bangladeshi health workers have been arrested on charges of selling thousands of fake COVID-19 negative certificates, officials confirmed on Friday, as the country reels under a surge in coronavirus cases.  
The scandal came to light after a Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) raid on Regent Hospital in Dhaka on Monday. The private hospital was one of the health facilities chosen by the government to treat COVID-19 patients.
“The hospital collected more than 10,000 samples and tested only 4,200 of them at different government health facilities. But they issued COVID-19 reports for all,” Lt. Col. Ashik Billah, spokesman of the elite anti-crime unit of the Bangladeshi police, told Arab News on Friday. 
He said that Regent Hospital authorities prepared fake coronavirus reports at a computer lab next to the hospital building.
“We found the hospital’s registration expired in 2014 and they were running it illegally. Moreover, they were charging at least $45 for a coronavirus test and also charged huge amounts of money for treatment although it was supposed to be free according to an agreement signed with the government in late March,” Billah said. 
The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) on Tuesday suspended all operations of the hospital. Nine people have been arrested but the hospital’s managing director and owner, Mohammad Shahed, remains at large. 
“When the country first detected COVID-19 cases in early March, it was an emergency and the government urged private hospitals to step  up and treat coronavirus patients. We didn’t get much response at the beginning, (but) Regent authorities approached us and we signed an agreement with them,” Dr. Nasima Sultana, additional director general of DGHS, told Arab News. 

FASTFACT

Officials at Regent Hospital in Dhaka reportedly charged $45 for a coronavirus report without testing.  

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) said on Thursday that it would launch an investigation into irregularities at Regent Hospital. Health Ministry officials will also be screened in relation to the case, ACC secretary Dilwar Bakht told reporters. 
The country’s central bank has issued an order to freeze all bank accounts of Shahed’s business groups, while immigration authorities have barred him from leaving Bangladesh. 
In a similar case on June 24, police arrested five staff members — including the chief executive — of JKG, a private health care company that received government accreditation to collect COVID-19 samples from patients in Dhaka and Narayanganj.
It is believed that those producing fake coronavirus certificates catered especially to Bangladeshis who needed COVID-19 clearance to travel abroad.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh chairman, Mofidur Rahman, told Arab News on Friday that to prevent the issuance of fake certificates for travelers, special labs should be dedicated to testing them.
“A discussion is underway in this regard and it might be introduced soon,” he said. 
The fake coronavirus certificate scandal is unfolding at a time when Bangladesh has recorded a rapid rise in the number of COVID-19 cases.
At least 178,000 people were known to have contracted the disease as of Friday and 2,275 have succumbed to it, according to DGHS data.


US to pay over $1bn for 100m doses of J&J’s potential COVID-19 vaccine

Updated 55 min 15 sec ago

US to pay over $1bn for 100m doses of J&J’s potential COVID-19 vaccine

  • The latest contract equates to roughly $10 per vaccine dose produced by J&J
  • This is J&J’s first deal to supply its investigational vaccine to a country

WASHINGTON: The United States government will pay Johnson & Johnson over $1 billion for 100 million doses of its potential coronavirus vaccine, its latest such arrangement as the race to tame the pandemic intensifies, the drugmaker said on Wednesday.
It said it would deliver the vaccine to the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) on a not-for-profit basis to be used after approval or emergency use authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
J&J has already received $1 billion in funding from the US government — BARDA agreed in March to provide that money for the company to build manufacturing capacity for more than 1 billion doses of the experimental vaccine.
The latest contract equates to roughly $10 per vaccine dose produced by J&J. Including the first $1 billion deal with the USgovernment, the price would be slightly higher than the $19.50 per dose that the United States is paying for the vaccine being developed by Pfizer Inc. and German biotech BioNTech SE.
The US government may also purchase an additional 200 million doses under a subsequent agreement. J&J did not disclose that deal’s value.
J&J plans to study a one- or two-dose regimen of the vaccine in parallel later this year. A single-shot regimen could allow more people to be vaccinated with the same number of doses and would sidestep issues around getting people to come back for their second dose.
This is J&J’s first deal to supply its investigational vaccine to a country. Talks are underway with the European Union, but no deal has yet been reached.
J&J’s investigational vaccine is currently being tested on healthy volunteers in the United States and Belgium in an early-stage study.
There are currently no approved vaccines for COVID-19. More than 20 are in clinical trials.