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One Lakh Fake COVID Tests! Yes, Kumbh Mela Was a Super Spreader

Thousands of COVID cases, and subsequent deaths, can be traced to the Kumbh Mela. We must ask tough questions now.

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3 min read

Video Producer: Shohini Bose
Video Editor: Mohd Irshad Alam
Camera: Shiv Kumar Maurya

Yeh Jo India Hai Na… Yahan jhoot bolne ka ek naya record set hua hai (Here in India, a new record has been set, of telling lies)! Not one or two, not a hundred or even a thousand. But, over one lakh fake COVID tests were conducted in Haridwar during the Kumbh Mela!

One lakh fake tests! And this is not news printed in some small-time newspaper. This was on the front page of the national daily, The Times of India.

A 1600-page report filed by the Uttarakhand health department reveals some shocking details:

  • A single phone number was used to register over 50 people. Gair kanooni. Illegal.
  • One antigen test kit, which has an exclusive number, and is meant for single use, was used to test 700 samples. Gair kanooni. Illegal.
  • Fake addresses, fake names too... 530 samples taken from ‘House #5’ in Haridwar – 500 people living under one roof?
  • Phone numbers were also blatantly fake – apparently, people in Kanpur, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and 18 other locations all use the same phone number!
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DAILY TEST TARGET WAS HIGH, BUT WHY FAKE THEM?

Such big lies can only mean that the fraudsters knew they had immunity from prosecution. So, were they working hand in glove with the organisers of the Kumbh Mela?

In Haridwar, 22 private labs were hired to conduct daily tests during the Mela. The daily target was 50,000 tests. So you had to do LOTS of tests, but why FAKE them?

Here is the answer. Out of the one lakh fake tests uncovered, only 177 were COVID positive, or 0.18 percent. Clearly a lie. Because, we know that later in April, the official positivity rate in Haridwar was near 10 percent. 

But, in the initial days of the Kumbh, these thousands of fake negative tests allowed the government to say, ‘There is no COVID in Kumbh... all is well and it is not a super spreader event.’

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UTTARAKHAND HEALTH DEPARTMENT CAUGHT KUMBH ORGANISERS' LIES, AND HOW!

Unfortunately, it was the Uttarakhand government’s own health department that caught the Kumbh organisers red handed. Listen to this excerpt from the report:

“For COVID tests, sample collectors must physically collect the samples. But when sample collectors were contacted, half of them were from Rajasthan, many of them were students... many had never been to Haridwar.”
Uttarakhand Health Department Report

Of course, the Haridwar District Magistrate has ordered a probe, which is expected to conclude in 15 days. Payment to the private testing labs has also been suspended.

Each antigen test was priced at Rs 350. So, the testing agencies were even being paid Rs 350 for each lie. Not bad for business!

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UNFORTUNATELY, THIS IS NOT A JOKE...

But, unfortunately, this is no laughing matter. If anything, it might be the direct cause for the deaths of thousands of Indians.

Several health experts had advised against holding the Kumbh Mela. Social distancing would be impossible, and it would become a super spreader event, they had predicted.

But the central and state governments had a vote bank to please. And, the Mela went ahead. We repeatedly heard officials saying massive testing would be done, was being done. Except, as it turns out, they were all fake!

Government officials facing a probe will say they didn’t know that private labs were fudging tests, that the thousands of COVID negative tests were fake. And they will get away with it.
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WILL WE START ASKING TOUGH QUESTIONS, BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE?

And, we all know that thousands of infections – and subsequent deaths – in the second COVID wave were traced back to the Kumbh Mela, the result of a deliberate attempt to lie about the actual COVID situation in Haridwar.

Yeh Jo India Hai Na… we will have to decide on how many such frauds, such lies will we tolerate, and how many more deaths will we make peace with before we start asking some tough questions of the powers that be.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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