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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Man arrested in Hong Kong after visiting 9 clinics in 5 days for free Covid drugs

Man arrested in Hong Kong after visiting 9 clinics in 5 days for free Covid drugs

Suspect, 60, arrested in Sham Shui Po for alleged fraud.
Hong Kong police have arrested a man who allegedly obtained nine courses of free Covid-19 oral drugs in five days by pretending to be infected with the coronavirus, the second such case involving fraudulent claims for antivirals in weeks.

Police on Saturday said the 60-year-old man, surnamed Lam, was arrested in Sham Shui Po on Friday morning for alleged fraud, after officers discovered he had visited nine different private clinics over five days for Covid-19 drugs.

A police spokesman said the investigation was continuing and more arrests were possible.

The force said the arrest was connected with an earlier one last month, when a 63-year-old man was detained in Tseung Kwan O.

On February 27, the first suspect, surnamed Chan, was found to have visited nine private clinics within two days, also obtaining nine courses of Covid-19 oral antivirals. Chan was detained for further investigation.

Police did not reveal why the pair sought so many Covid-19 drugs.

The Department of Health last month warned residents not to obtain Covid-19 oral drugs by improper means or to resell them. It said the government had been monitoring the usage of Covid-19 oral drugs, including prescription records from both public and private doctors.

The government had passed on suspicious prescription records to police for follow-up action, resulting in the two arrests.

Those who test positive for Covid-19 can receive oral drugs free of charge at public hospitals, clinics and private doctors after consultation. Non-residents would have to pay more than HK$6,000 (US$766) for each course of treatment at private hospitals and clinics.

In January, the Post reported that some residents had been making suspicious requests for the two Covid-19 oral drugs available in the city, Pfizer’s Paxlovid and MSD’s Molnupiravir.

Doctors had noticed such behaviour soon after the city resumed quarantine-free travel with mainland China on January 8. Paxlovid was not readily available on the mainland then, with Molnupiravir only obtainable since December.

The Hong Kong Medical Association confirmed that it had received a handful of reports from private doctors about strange requests by patients, including an individual visiting six different practitioners on the same day for Paxlovid.

Other suspicious requests included patients asking on behalf of family members who had different surnames.

The maximum penalty upon conviction for fraud is 14 years’ jail.
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