by NUR HANANI AZMAN / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
THE government should make the Covid-19 self-test kits free or provide 50% subsidy for the lower income groups if possible, according to medical experts.
Malaysian Pharmacists Society president Amrahi Buang said this move will allow more people to self-test for the virus, considering the Delta variant has caused an exponential rise in cases nationwide.
“The Covid-19 self-test kit is very important to empower the public. Situation in the Greater Klang Valley is real and it will, if it has not, spread to the whole Malaysia if not controlled. It’s bad now.
“To be fair to all, there should be a range for floor and ceiling prices with a different range for Sabah and Sarawak,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).
At the moment, six Covid-19 self-test kits have received approval from the Health Ministry via the Medical Device Authority for sale in the market.
They are Salixium-Covid-19 Rapid Antigen Rapid Test (saliva/ nasal swab samples), Gmate Covid-19 Ag Saliva for Home Use, BERIGHT-Covid-19 Antigen Rapid Test Device (oral fluid), ALLTest Covid-19 Antigen Rapid Test (oral fluid), JusChek Covid-19 Antigen Rapid Test (oral fluid) and Longsee 2019-nCoV Ag & Influenza A/B Rapid Co-Detection Kit (immunochromatography, home-based use).
Approved Covid-19 self-test kits are available online at https://public. emedasia.com/ after the e-commerce platform launched its storefront for the public last week. The public can also get it at the pharmacies and health facilities.
The Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry said that it is considering a proposal to control the price of the test kit.
Deputy Minister Datuk Rosol Wahid acknowledged that the test kit price is a burden, especially to the low-income groups and families with many children.
“So, we are discussing the matter with manufacturers, importers and sellers to get it at a reasonable price that will not affect the traders or burden the people.
“We hope the price will be affordable for everyone…besides that, our role is also to make sure that this test kit is not fake. We are worried that some people are trying to produce fake goods,” he said.
Malaysian Public Health Physicians Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar suggested to the government for the Covid-19 self-test kits to be free for the bottom 40% (B40) group or those under quarantine.
He said the self-test kits are a very important component now, hence the public should have easy access.
“The price of these self-test kits overseas is around RM5 to RM10, while in Malaysia it costs more than RM35. This is quite pricey for the vulnerable group. For example, a family with 10 family members will have to fork out RM350 per test for all,” he added.
“If you live with a family, all members need to do the test also. We hope the government can lower the price,” he told TMR.
Dr Zainal said the government should consider giving Covid-19 self-test kits free or subsidised to make it affordable.
Meanwhile, Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia president Datuk Dr Kuljit Singh said the government needs to look at two aspects — it should not be too pricey and at the same time, the market cannot be strangulated by setting the price at a very low level where the kits end up being of poor quality.
“We can expect a lot of people will use the Covid-19 self-test kits, hence we need to have high-quality kits. We can’t afford a false positive or false negative result that can lead to disaster.
“When we have controlled prices, I’m not saying it will happen but usually it will be hard for the manufacturer to meet the quality that is required,” he told TMR.
Dr Kuljit believed the government needs to see which is the best way — whether to subsidise as long as the quality of the product meets good standard.
Monash University Malaysia’s School of Pharmacy lecturer Dr Mark Cheong said the government should use whatever means possible, including price controls and subsidies, to ensure that the public are able to obtain self-test kits at a price that is low enough for regular self-testing without hesitation.
“The government should also consider providing access to free self-test kits for the B40 segment of the population,” he told TMR.