Stock levels of ART kits 'healthy and sufficient' and able to meet rising demand: Distributors

SPD Scientific managing director Jes Lim (front) and her colleagues with stocks of SD Biosensor kits. PHOTO: SPD SCIENTIFIC

SINGAPORE - Distributors here are confident that they are able to meet the rising demand for Covid-19 antigen rapid test (ART) kits, with months' worth of stock in warehouses and shipments coming in every week to meet the surge in orders.

This follows the rush for ART kits at many pharmacy retailers, where the shelves remain empty after consumers snapped up almost every available kit earlier this week.

Ms Jes Lim, managing director of SPD Scientific, which supplies SD Biosensor kits, told The Straits Times that its warehouses can hold some 20 million kits at a time. She added that orders have increased threefold and that it receives a few million kits each week.

"There is a healthy and sufficient supply of ART kits to cater for the increase in demand," said Ms Lim on Wednesday (Sept 22).

"The current order size can be adjusted at any time, even up to millions if necessary."

Since May, the company has had an agreement with the South Korean manufacturers for larger shipments that can be delivered at a week's notice.

Its product is one of six brands of self-test ART kits that are authorised by the Health Sciences Authority.

The company provides kits to retailers, construction and food and beverage companies, and to households as part of the Government's initiative to give test kits to all homes.

Boxes of SD Biosensor test kits that are held in SPD Scientific's warehouse in Changi. PHOTO: SPD SCIENTIFIC

A spokesman for Becton Dickinson (BD), which supplies BD Veritor kits, told ST it is able to meet demand.

Going by current demand, the company holds a few months' worth of test kits, which are stored in a temperature-controlled facility in Singapore.

He said: "We can mobilise shipments very quickly as our supply chain is agile and we have no concerns about the current supply-and-demand situation with our partners."

The spokesman said demand has been rising in line with Singapore's approach to increase the use of ART to rapidly detect cases in the community.

BD Veritor antigen rapid test kits being shipped to Singapore. PHOTO: SINGAPORE AIRLINES/EXPEDITORS
BD Veritor kits at their Singapore regional distribution centre hosted by DB Schenker. PHOTO: DB SCHENKER/BECTON DICKINSON

The BD kits are being used at several venues including borders, dormitories, hospitals and GP clinics. They were also used in many schools during the recent test kit distribution after the September holidays.

Another distributor, Roche Diagnostics Asia Pacific, which also provides SD Biosensor test kits, said it had sufficient inventory of ART kits to meet the current level of orders and is prepared to bring in more stock to meet any increase in demand.

The firm has seen a "sharp increase" in demand from retailers and corporate buyers, and added that the delivery lead time is normally two weeks, after the kits are manufactured in South Korea and packaged in Germany.

A spokesman for Roche said: "We are monitoring the situation and have continued to build buffer inventory levels for all our tests over the course of this pandemic."

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Mr Wayne Yap, Unison Collaborative's director, said the pharmaceutical company, which distributes Abbott Panbio kits, is receiving weekly shipments to meet orders from its customers, such as retailers and corporate buyers in construction, F&B and logistics.

On Monday, pharmacy retailers Guardian and Watsons said demand had risen five times compared to previous weeks and they were bringing in more stocks.

Watsons said it has been "working tirelessly" to boost its stock of ART kits. Its spokesman said on Wednesday: "We have managed to secure some replenishment stocks for our retail stores and these will be piped in to our stores gradually from tomorrow.

"We expect the demand for ART kits to remain high amid the surge in Covid-19 cases and will continue to monitor the situation closely."

ART kits were out of stock at this Watson's store in VivoCity when The Straits Times visited on Sept 20, 2021. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH
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As testing for Covid-19 becomes part of the new normal in Singapore, DIY test kits will be sold at pharmacies from June 16. ST journalist Timothy Goh tries out the Abbott PanBio Covid-19 Antigen Self-test, to see how easy it is to use.

A Guardian spokesman said on Wednesday that more supplies will be coming in over the next two weeks and it is actively restocking its shelves.

SPD Scientific's Ms Lim assured buyers there is ongoing and consistent supplies, and that it is just a matter of transporting them from the warehouses to the shops.

Singapore's director of medical services Kenneth Mak said on Monday: "We actually have a lot of test kits, but I think it's just an issue of supply, distribution and allocation."

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