Members of the public who wish to get their hands on the COVID-19 antigen rapid test (ART) kits for self-testing can do so from next Wednesday (16 June) onwards as they will be “sold by pharmacists”, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Thursday (10 June).
It was stated that these self-testing kits, which include Abbott PanBio COVID-19 Antigen Self-test, QuickVue At-Home OTC COVID-19 Test, SD Biosensor SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Self-Test Nasal and SD Biosensor Standard Q COVID-19 Ag Home Test, have been given interim authorisation from the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) to be sold to the general public.
MOH revealed that these tests will be able to generate results in less than 20 minutes.
“They are simple to use, they can be self-administered. From next week, Jun 16, these kits will be dispensed by pharmacists at selected retail pharmacies. We will then open up for counter sales at more retail locations progressively,” said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung at a multi-ministry task force press conference.
For a start, the sales will be limited to 10 ART kits per person in order to make sure that there are “adequate supplies for all”, but once more supplies are made available for retail sales, authorities will “eventually allow test kits to be freely purchased”, said the Health Ministry’s director of medical services Kenneth Mak.
As Singapore prepares to ease some of its COVID-19 measures from 14 June, it’s important that testing can be done fast, easy and accessible, said Mr Ong.
Associate Professor Mak went on to note that the self-test kits “complement” Singapore’s overall surveillance strategy.
“These fast and easy to use tests allow us to detect infected cases more quickly, in particular among individuals who do not have acute respiratory infection symptoms, but are concerned that they may have been exposed to COVID-19,” he said.
For individuals whose test results come out positive on these self-test kits, they should “immediate approach” a Swab and Send Home Public Health Preparedness Clinic (SASH PHPC) for a confirmatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, said MOH.
It added that these individuals will then need to self-isolate until they receive a negative PCR test result.
“Individuals who have ARI symptoms should continue to visit a doctor for a full diagnosis and PCR test instead of relying on an ART self-test kit,” the ministry said.
Mr Ong also said in a Facebook post on Thursday (10 June) that these kits are available for sale at Watson, Guardian and Unity outlets.
Self-test kits have higher chance of false negative results: HSA
In a separate press release on Thursday, the HSA also noted that the self-test kits can be purchased without a doctor’s prescription.
ARTs identify the viral proteins in the nasal swab samples of COVID-19 positive people and “usually work best in the early stages of infection”, said the authority.
“In general, ARTs can achieve a sensitivity of about 80 per cent for cases with higher viral loads and a specificity range of 97 to 100 per cent,” said the HSA.
The authority explained that sensitivity means the test’s ability to correctly identify COVID-19 in individuals without the disease, meanwhile specificity refers to the test’s ability to identify individuals without COVID-19.
ARTs have lower sensitivity than PCR tests, and this means that the rapid tests have a “higher change of false negative results”.
All ARTs come with pamphlets with instructions on how to use, and HSA encouraged consumers to read these carefully before using the tests.
“Users should collect their nasal sample using the swab provided in the kit and prepare their nasal sample using the buffer and tube provided.
“Once the sample is ready, users should perform the test using the test device and read the results,” said the authority.