Exclusive: As Britain begins a mass roll-out of free Covid test kits, criminals are set to exploit a huge loophole.

8 April 2021 By Paul Martin

Worried pharmacists have warned that criminal gangs can collect an unlimited number of lateral flow test kits from different pharmacies – visiting as many as they can nationwide without fear of detection. 

That’s because the government has failed to provide any proper checking mechanism on who is coming in to collect them.

 “We’re not even required to take anyone’s name and address, let alone see a form of identity and note it down,” said a veteran London pharmacist.   He declined to be named.

“It’s money for nothing for rogues to get hold of.”

 Each pharmacist is authorised to hand over up to 4 boxes, each containing seven individual testers, to anyone who says he or she needs them. 

Originally it was to be only for people who said they had a reason to use them, like being in a bubble, or looking after children, or travelling on public transport.  But last week the government announced there were no longer any of these restrictions – which were in any case uncheckable.

The pharmacist pointed out that criminals can collect kits from as many pharmacies as they can, stockpiling many thousands per week, and .then market the kits outside the UK.  This could be done easily on the internet, for example on eBay, he pointed out.

International police organisations say there will be a huge market in countries that do not have a ready supply of these kits, vital in detecting whether a person is carrying the Covid virus without symptoms. 

A recent report by the World Health Organisation has also warned that organised criminal networks are now targeting the vaccine trade because profits are high, the risk of successful prosecution is low, and the penalties are small.

The pharmacist said he was frustrated that the government had not even taken the simple step of printing “Free British Government Issue” on the blank cardboard box inside the NHS kit-box.  This would allow anyone to simply remove the exterior NHS box and sell the neatly-packed kits inside.

UPDATE: In May 2021 the British government, alerted by the pharmacist who provided the information for this article, has taken this step: “The latest batch of Covid tests have the ‘Not for Resale’ printed on the box … so the government can say they realised their error and corrected it,” the pharmacist writes. 

He said that, unlike the system available for actual vaccinations, there is in fact no national or even local computer programme available to pharmacists to enter details of people picking up a kit.  

“But if names and ID were taken, it would certainly deter criminality as the chances of being caught later would increase,” he pointed out.

So far, the government has been sending packs of 54 to pharmacists, who can receive twelve of these per week, meaning they have a total of 4,536 individual testers each week.  The government pays pharmacists to distribute the kits.

“Each kit that is wrongly used – in effect hijacked – means one more family may end up deprived of a test kit,” the pharmacist said.  “And it’s a waste of government money.

 “And ironically, the more kits that are hijacked, the more it looks like their distribution to the public is a greater and greater success.”

 The National Pharmacy Association says it is looking into the matter.  Its head of communications told Correspondent.World by email:  “I believe there is no requirement for a  pharmacist to get a name and or see an ID card of some sort before handing over such kit. “

 Asked if the Association is concerned that this is a loophole, the spokesman replied: “Pharmacists will use their professional judgment to help ensure the kits are supplied for legitimate use.”

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