SINGAPORE - Two new antigen rapid test (ART) kits, AllTest and Indicaid, will be available in stores from March amid Singapore logging a record high of 26,032 Covid-19 cases on Tuesday (Feb 22).
Medical device firm Alcotech told The Straits Times that it will be bringing in five million AllTest kits from China. These will be stocked by retailers including FairPrice, Guardian, Watsons, Shopee and Lazada.
Alcotech's warehouse can hold up to 80 million kits at any one time, it added.
SDT Molecular, a medical device wholesaler, will bring in 20,000 to 50,000 kits in its first Indicaid shipment in March. Ms Shirley Tan, chief executive of SDT Molecular, said it is in talks with resellers and retailers to stock them.
However, the firm is able to bring in only a limited number due to the surge in demand for ART kits, especially in Hong Kong where Indicaid is made.
The number of kits in subsequent shipments will increase, she added.
On Tuesday, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said all 7.5 million residents will undergo mandatory Covid-19 tests thrice in March.
This measure comes as the territory faces its worst outbreak since the pandemic began in January 2020.
Both Indicaid and AllTest will cost below $5 each, which is comparable with other brands in the market.
The new kits, which both involve nasal swabbing, were first announced last November by Minister for Health Ong Ye Kung.
They were authorised by the Health Sciences Authority in January, bringing the total number of ART kits approved for consumer use to 14.
The introduction of the new kits comes as the Ministry of Health said on Tuesday that "it may take a few weeks before the transmission wave peaks and subsides".
To ensure sufficient stocks of ART kits, the Government released supplies from its stockpile to retailers earlier this month.
Retailers have also been doing their part to replenish their shelves with the kits and have yet to impose a quota on the number individuals can buy.
A Watsons spokesman said with the recent surge in Covid-19 cases, it has seen a close to threefold jump in demand for the kits in February compared with January.
Since Tuesday, it has begun to sell the Flowflex kit in addition to the SD Biosensor and Abbott Panbio kits, as part of efforts to meet customer demand.
Guardian saw demand almost doubling from January to February. A spokesman said: "We encourage customers to purchase only what they need to ensure there is sufficient stock for everyone."
A FairPrice spokesman noted how demand has been "elevated", adding that this could be due to both the rise in Covid-19 cases and public awareness of the importance of regular testing amid the evolving pandemic situation.
Checks by The Straits Times on Wednesday afternoon showed that about 60 of the 178 collection venues dispensing free ART kits to those who need to self-test have low stock, are running out of stock or are out of stock.
Professor Dale Fisher, a senior infectious disease consultant at the National University Hospital, said having more brands of Covid-19 kits in the market will keep prices and supplies stable.
He added: "Antigen rapid tests are very empowering in helping individuals know if they have Covid-19. This can guide personal decision-making about visiting hospitals, large gatherings and vulnerable family members."
Even though most workers no longer have to undergo rostered routine testing, Prof Fisher added that Covid-19 testing will remain useful for those working in high-risk settings such as hospitals and nursing homes.