Cincinnati customs seize over 29,000 counterfeit coronavirus test kits

Walmart pharmacist Shama Sarangi instructs a motorist how to do a self swab as Georgia Army National Guard Pfc. Joshua Tucker looks on at a new mobile COVID-19 drive-through testing site serving rural stretches of Georgia.(Curtis Compton/Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

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Walmart pharmacist Shama Sarangi instructs a motorist how to do a self swab as Georgia Army National Guard Pfc. Joshua Tucker looks on at a new mobile COVID-19 drive-through testing site serving rural stretches of Georgia.(Curtis Compton/Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Cincinnati Customs and Border Protection has seized over 29,000 prohibited coronavirus test kits since the beginning of the pandemic, according to a release. They have made 62 total seizures with a total of 29,438 counterfeit or prohibited kits. The Food and Drug Administration is still reviewing 52 additional shipments.

The seized shipments contained counterfeit kits as well as kits that are unapproved or prohibited by the FDA. The shipments were valued at a total of $588,760. Some of the larger seizures contained up to 5,000 kits. At least three seizures were 2,000 kits a piece, a release stated.

People are smuggling and selling counterfeit safety equipment, unapproved test kits, medicine and hygiene products to individuals to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic for financial gain. To combat this, CBP is targeting imports and exports, mainly international mail and express consignment cargo, to ensure it doesn’t contain illegal goods.

“Our officers know their role on the frontline is critical to the health and safety of the American people,” said Richard Gillespie, Port Director, Cincinnati. “At a time when the country is in the middle of a National Emergency, our officers are dedicated to protecting our citizens and ensuring their safety.”

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The release advised that, while testing is available in most states and at local public health laboratories, the public should be aware of bogus testing kits and the dangers they pose if they are not admitted by medical professionals.

Shipments often include false or misleading claims, lack required warnings and do not have approval from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Cincinnati CBP falls under the Chicago Field Office, which also reports seizures in Louisville, Chicago and Indianapolis. In Louisville, CBP officers have made 16 seizures, totaling 187 Virus Shutout lanyards, which claim to protect against coronavirus and often contain Chloride Dioxide, a dangerous pesticide.

“This pesticide can leech into the skin on contact, cause breathing issues, and lead to additional health concerns for the wearer,” said Thomas Mahn, Port Director, Louisville. “The Shutout devices often lead to a false sense of security and in no way protects the bearer from the Coronavirus.”

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