SINGAPORE - Covid-19 self-test kits will be sold by pharmacists at Guardian, Unity and Watsons pharmacies from June 16, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Thursday (June 10).
Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said during an update by the multi-ministry task force on Covid-19: "As we want to resume more activities, we need to make testing fast, easy and accessible."
Sales will be initially limited to 10 antigen rapid test (ART) kits per person to ensure there are adequate supplies for all.
They will be made available at more retail locations progressively.
Singapore's director of medical services, Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, said: "We will eventually allow test kits to be freely purchased as more ART test kit supplies are made available for retail sales."
The ART kits produce results in less than 20 minutes, are simple to use and can be self-administered, MOH said.
Prof Mak said: "The ART self-test kits complement our 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."
This might be for people who had been to a place that a confirmed case had visited, for instance.
The four self-test kits that have been granted interim authorisation by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) for sale to the public are the Abbott PanBio Covid-19 Antigen Self-Test, the Quidel QuickVue At-Home OTC Covid-19 Test, the SD Biosensor Sars-CoV-2 Antigen Self-Test Nasal, and the SD Biosensor Standard Q Covid-19 Ag Home Test.
In response to media queries, Watsons Singapore said it will be retailing the Abbott and Quidel QuickVue test kits at all pharmacy stores in phase one of the test kit roll-out.
"We would be keeping with MOH's recommended guidelines on retail selling price, which will range from approximately $10 to $13 per test kit," it said.
MOH said: "Individuals who have a positive result for their ART self-test should immediately approach a Swab And Send Home public health preparedness clinic for a confirmatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.
"They are then required to self-isolate until they receive a negative PCR test result."
Meanwhile, those who test negative on their self-test ART should still stay vigilant and adhere to prevailing safe management measures, MOH said.
Individuals who have acute respiratory infection symptoms should also continue to visit a doctor for a full diagnosis and PCR test instead of relying on an ART self-test kit, it added.
The HSA noted that ARTs have a lower sensitivity than PCR tests and a higher chance of false negative results.
In general, ARTs can achieve a sensitivity of about 80 per cent for cases with higher viral loads and a specificity range of 97 per cent to 100 per cent, it added.
Prof Mak said: "Regular testing is key to our ability to reopen and will be part of our way of life. (It) allows us to detect and isolate cases in the community more quickly, and will allow more economic and social activities to continue, even as we detect cases and clusters.
"Testing also provides us with the greater assurance that our homes, retail places and workplaces are safe."
More information on the ART kits will be made available through various media channels and the MOH website from June 16.