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Police seize 1,500 unauthorized COVID-19 tests from Richmond man
VANCOUVER -- A Richmond man is under investigation after Mounties found him allegedly preying on coronavirus fears by marketing COVID-19 "test kits" online. The RCMP seized 1,500 units at his home.
Health Canada inspected the items in a package labeled "One Step Test Cassette" and said they were unauthorized, sold without approval, and shouldn't be taken as valid tests.
Mounties were tight-lipped on details, but say the kits were marketed online for a price people would be "willing to pay" to know if they had COVID-19. When asked, they couldn't specify whether the seller was marketing them as home tests or requiring submission to a "lab," but the photo of the sample provided to journalists reads "Rapid Test Cassette."
"(He sold) very little, we were pretty quick," said BC RCMP Federal Serious and Organized Crime spokesperson Cpl. Daniel Michaud. "We’ve got a good team of investigators scouring the internet and all the reports we’re getting, and we acted quickly and involved Health Canada in this … There were very little sent out and sold.”
The FSOC unit announced the seizure in a news release Thursday, saying the investigation resulted from a tip provided by the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
They warned that only diagnostic tests authorized by Health Canada can be imported or sold in the country, and advised anyone who has purchased an unauthorized health product to stop using it immediately and consult a health-care professional if they have concerns about their health.
"Selling or advertising health products that make false or misleading claims to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure COVID-19 is illegal in Canada," police said in their release. "Health Canada takes this matter very seriously and is taking action to stop this activity."
The province's top doctor weighed in on the warning from Mounties, pointing out that mail-order tests are not only unreliable, they're unnecessary when the testing criteria has been expanded dramatically in recent days.
"We're being quite free with that so it doesn't have to be coughing (and) fever. It can be any of the the myriad symptoms that can be – we now know – related to COVID-19," said Dr. Bonnie Henry, who pointed out testing asymptomatic people isn't helpful with the tests currently available.
"We know that if you have no symptoms and it's negative, it really doesn't tell you anything at all," she said. "It doesn't mean that you're safe because you could have been exposed to the virus, potentially, and you’re still in the incubation period. The test is negative today, but you may start developing symptoms tomorrow."
Health Canada is monitoring websites for false and misleading claims during the coronavirus pandemic and is working with online retailers to ensure that unauthorized products are removed, police said.
Anyone who has information about the sale or advertising of a product claiming to treat, diagnose, prevent or cure COVID-19 should report it using Health Canada's online complaint form, police said.
The BC RCMP Federal Serious and Organized Crime unit's Financial Integrity Program has created a COVID-19 Fraud Response Team to deal with pandemic-related scams.
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Ian Holliday