Singapore scrapes fraudulent COVID-19 healthcare products from online stores

Since February, more than 1,700 product listings that contain fraudulent COVID-19 claims have been removed from local e-commerce sites and retail shops.

Singapore scrapes fraudulent COVID-19 healthcare products from online stores

More than 1,700 product listings have been removed over the last three months from e-commerce sites and retail shops in Singapore for making fraudulent COVID-19 claims. These include test kits, herbs, traditional medicines, health supplements, and hand sanitisers. 

The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) said it had intensified its monitoring of local e-commerce platforms and retail outlets to stem the sale of health products that carry false and misleading claims purporting to prevent, treat, or diagnose the coronavirus. Apart from removal of these product listings, more than 1,600 warning letters had been issued to sellers and businesses peddling such products, the government agency said in a statement Wednesday. 

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Amongst these, more than 40 listings of COVID-19 test kits were identified and removed from various e-commerce platforms incluing Lazada, Carousell, Shopee, and Facebook. The sellers of these products had claimed the test kits could produce results within minutes and were sold for between SG$10 and SG$290. 

HSA said none of the sellers had physical stocks of such products and only imported them from overseas when orders were received. The government authority added that it had not validated or approved any COVID-19 test kits for home use. 

Local testing for the coronavirus currently is done only by clinical laboratories or medical professionals in clinics and hospitals.

Businesses and sellers such as Chinese medical halls, health supplement retailers, and multi-level marketing companies also had been advertising products they claimed could prevent or combat COVID-19, according to HSA. The authority said it had removed more than 100 such online listings, which included traditional medicines, herbal remedies, and probiotics such as "red ginseng" and "Hawaiian spirulina". 

It further cautioned against sellers that falsely advertised products as a cure or preventive remedy for COVID-19, noting that they could be liable for prosecution and, if convicted, would face imprisonment of up to a year or fined up to SG$20,000. 

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