Covid-19 self-test kits shortage in the market

Consumers have started buying in bulk this week compared to a small amount previously 

By NUR HANANI AZMAN / Pic Source: mediven.com.my

DEMAND for Covid-19 antigen rapid self-test kits has risen in the past week and more stocks are expected to arrive in stores by next week but at higher prices. 

Malaysian Pharmacists Society president Amrahi Buang said there is an apparent lack of self-test kits in the market due to the Chinese New Year and Federal Territory celebrations which lead to massive travelling and greater demand for the products because of the increased awareness and rising positive cases. 

“The suppliers are trying to produce more. We are waiting for new stocks to arrive by this or next week. The Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry will have to monitor the situation with stock levels and prices in the market. 

“At the same time, the Medical Device Authority assures and monitors the quality and standard of test kits,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR). 

The fresh wave of Omicron variant infections has seen the Covid-19 antigen rapid self-test kits “flying off shelves” in some pharmacies and retail outlets. 

One pharmacy staff, who didn’t want to be named, said many consumers have started buying in bulk (100 to 200 kits) this week compared to a small amount previously as the Covid-19 cases hit the 14,000 daily range this week. 

“One of the suppliers told us that they will increase the price for the next batch. There is panic buying with some people starting to hoard self-test kits, hand sanitiser and face masks,” the staff told TMR. 

Long queues can be noticed in front of clinics that provide rapid test kits and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing. 

A private medical practitioner in Petaling Jaya, Selangor said for self-test kits, there is no severe shortage per se, rather a logistics issue at the wrong time as the Omicron wave hit the population. 

“The self-test kits shortage is mainly due to Chinese New Year. All new stock is stuck due to the festive season. Hence, PCR testing is increasing in demand which is a good thing for our community. 

“The labs are more efficient after learning much from the previous waves. Now they can handle samples better and it’s cheaper now. People can afford it compared to previous lockdowns,” the private practitioner told TMR. 

Osel Group chief clinical and innovative scientist Dr Kris See said what we need is accurate enough test kits and there are many test kits out in the market that is substandard. 

“In my clinical experience, there are so many people who have tested positive but when we retest with PCR or antigen swab it was negative. If we look at the greater picture, what we need to do is to achieve true endemicity. 

“It’s really a cost issue and we must know that business sectors are behind the test kits. Naturally, for businesses, they wish to get a lower cost for test kits,” he told TMR. 

Nevertheless, listed healthcare stocks continue to underperform the broader market as the recent weak quarterly earnings from Hartalega Holdings Bhd dampened investor sentiment towards the sector. 

The healthcare index closed slightly higher by 5.66 points or 0.26% at 2183 points yesterday while the benchmark FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI closed 18.6 points or 1.2% higher at 1,570 points.