People register to undergo a test for the Covid-19 coronavirus in Colombo on August 19, 2021. ( AFP / ISHARA S. KODIKARA)

Hoax advert touting cheap Covid-19 tests circulates in Sri Lanka

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An advert that purports to show cheap "rapid antigen kit produced in Sri Lanka" has circulated on Facebook as Covid-19 infections surged in the island nation in August. The advert is a hoax. It shows an image of a professional-use test kit produced in Switzerland -- not Sri Lanka. Contact details indicated in the advert belong to a former politician who called the posts a "shameful false claim". Home test kits for Covid-19 have not been approved in Sri Lanka as of August 26.

The advert was shared in this Facebook post on August 22, 2021.

The Sinhala-language text superimposed on the image translates as: "Rapid antigen kit produced in Sri Lanka / Rs. 80 per kit. / Minimum order - five kits. / Islandwide delivery cost Rs. 100 / Only Rs. 500 to get it delivered to your doorstep. / Call Wasantha 0773029004".

The post circulated online as Sri Lanka announced a nationwide lockdown to curb surging Covid-19 infections that had overwhelmed the country's hospitals, morgues and crematoriums.

Screenshot of the Facebook post captured on August 25, 2021

An identical advert was also shared on Facebook here and here.

The advert is a hoax.

"At-home test kits are not approved for use in Sri Lanka yet," a spokesperson for the country's Health Promotion Bureau told AFP on August 25.

"Any person suspected of having contracted Covid-19 has to seek services of... public health authorities or authorized private hospitals or laboratories."

Misleading image

A keyword search on Google found the image in the advert corresponds to an similar photo of a Covid-19 rapid antigen test kit manufactured by Swiss pharmaceutical company PRIMA Lab.

A representative for PRIMA Lab confirmed to AFP the company has no manufacturing site in Sri Lanka.

"We have no other manufacturing sites except for our site in Switzerland," the representative said.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the hoax advert (L) and the image from PRIMA Lab (R):



Information about the test kit found on the PRIMA Lab website states the product is "for professional in-vitro use only" and "addressed to healthcare professionals with the aim to support them in COVID-19 emergency management."

Hoax number

AFP found that a number included in the misleading posts belongs to former opposition politician Wasantha Samarasinghe.

Samarasinghe called the posts "a shameful false claim" in a Facebook post here on August 22.

His Sinhala-language post reads in part: "A shameful false claim by mudslingers to cover up their failure.

"I condemn these politically motivated shameful acts carried out during a pandemic situation where the country and its people are in a helpless state."