Forum: Prices of Covid-19 self-test kits should be regulated

Everyone in the community is being encouraged to exercise social responsibility and to test themselves using antigen rapid test (ART) kits regularly for early detection (Regular testing to be part of life in new normal, Sept 25).

It has been made mandatory for some business sectors to test their workers weekly. This has resulted in the ramped-up demand for ART kits.

While we support a stepped-up testing regimen, the cost of each ART test kit places a heavy financial burden on all of us.

At present, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has approved six self-test kits, of which five are currently available. Most of them are priced in the range of $10 to $13.

Just by making a few calls to my company's regional offices and through online checks, I've found that most test kits similar to the ones approved here are cheaper in overseas regional markets.

What I do not understand is how approved distributors have priced the kits for sale here much higher than in other countries in our region, and within a tight price band of one another.

A commonly cited reason for price premiums in Singapore is that it is a small country.

I do understand that major retail chains (for example, Watsons and Guardian) can and do rightfully ask for a profit margin of between 20 per cent and 30 per cent.

I also understand it takes time, money and resources to get HSA's approval. Finally, I do understand the freight and logistics costs have increased due to Covid-19 disruptions to this sector.

But even if I add up all these business costs, the prices don't add up. I do hope that the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) can investigate this matter.

HSA or MTI should look into having more open competition. The pricing and profit margins should be regulated when it comes to pandemic-centric critical or essential items.

Also, HSA's list of approved distributors can be construed as a barrier to entry to others like parallel importers or other companies which can source for the same items.

Too Kah Sam

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