SINGAPORE - The Government released supplies of antigen rapid test (ART) kits from its stockpile to retailers last week after a sudden surge in demand for them, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Thursday (Feb 17).
The ministry was responding to queries from The Straits Times, following a report on Feb 9 that demand for ART kits had spiked, especially during the Chinese New Year period.
Retailers had said their kits were snapped up as soon as they hit stores, and they were ordering more to replenish their stocks.
"The Government has built up a stockpile of ART kits to prevent and mitigate any sudden disruption in supplies globally or sudden surge in demand in Singapore," said MOH.
"When there is shortage, the Government releases supplies from its stockpile to retailers. We did so last week, in response to requests from retailers."
The ministry added that the demand for ART kits is reflective of the testing needs among the population as the Covid-19 situation evolves.
"The recent demand for test kits has also risen as the population takes on greater social responsibility to perform more regular self-testing," it said.
Reported Covid-19 cases peaked on Tuesday at 19,420 - the highest since the pandemic hit Singapore's shores in January 2020.
On Wednesday, the number fell to 16,883 cases, with 1,352 patients hospitalised and 13 deaths reported.
"With the surge in demand for kits globally as well as in Singapore, retailers work closely with the Government to plan ahead to secure a healthy supply of kits," said MOH.
Since the sale of ART kits began in pharmacies in June last year, about nine million kits have been sold at retail stores, the ministry added.
The Government has also distributed close to 25 million ART kits to households via two nationwide distributions from August to September and October to December last year, with each household provided with a total of 16 kits.
MOH did not indicate if there will be another round of nationwide ART kit distribution to households.