Singapore's Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has clamped down on health products with false and misleading claims that purport to prevent, treat or diagnose COVID-19.
Since February 2020, more than 1,700 product listings have been removed for making fraudulent COVID-19 claims. Over 1,600 warning letters have been issued to the sellers and companies marketing such products.
The products detected include test kits for home use, health supplements, herbs, traditional medicines and hand sanitisers.
In a press statement, HSA said it has intensified surveillance on local ecommerce platforms and retail shops amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
To date, the authorities have detected and removed more than 40 listings of COVID-19 test kits for sale on local e-commerce platforms with the cooperation of Carousell, Lazada, Shopee, Ebay and Facebook. The sellers of these test kits have made fraudulent claims such as “positive results may be visible (in) as soon as 2 minutes”, “95% Accuracy and Results within 10 minutes” or “diagnose COVID-19 within 10 minutes”. These test kits were sold at SGD 78 to SGD 290. From HSA’s investigation, none of the sellers had the physical stocks with them and would only import them from overseas upon receiving the orders.
HSA stressed that it has not approved any COVID-19 test kits for home use. "These test kits are not validated by the authority and have inherent design and technology limitations that may result in incorrect or misleading findings."
Currently, testing for COVID-19 in Singapore can only be done by clinical laboratories or medical professionals in clinics and hospitals to ensure an accurate test result and diagnosis.
Many sellers and companies – such as Chinese medical halls, health supplement retailers and multi-level marketing companies – have also advertised an array of products as being able to prevent or fight against COVID-19.
HSA has detected and removed over a hundred such online listings and warned these sellers and companies. The products included health supplements, traditional medicines, herbal remedies and probiotics.
Health supplements such as “red ginseng” and “Hawaiian spirulina” sold online were promoted as being “good for coronavirus”, and herbal fragrance pouches sold at a TCM clinic were marketed to help “protect from the coronavirus”. Other products had claims such as “prevent COVID-19 with this immune system booster” and “use Vit C for the prevention of COVID-19”.
Misleading claims have also been made on hand and body sanitisers. HSA has issued more than 650 warning letters to sellers and companies, which made false or misleading claims in their advertisements.
The claims included “protects against Coronavirus”, “kill viruses including coronavirus” and “stops coronavirus”.
HSA advised the public that regular handwashing with soap and water is still the best way in reducing the spread of germs such as bacteria and viruses. "Hand sanitisers can be used when soap and water are not available, but they may not eliminate all types of germs and may not work well if hands are visibly dirty."