In order to curb the spread of Coronavirus, Singapore is aggressively working to ramp up its testing facilities. Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, had said during an update by the multi-ministry task force: “As we want to resume more activities, we need to make testing fast, easy and accessible.”
To drive the point home, MOH, recently announced COVID-19 antigen rapid test (ART) kits for Singaporeans to self-test. These tests will be sold at Guardian, Unity, and Watsons from June 16.
They will enable the convenience of testing with results in less than 20 minutes! Yes, it’s that fast and easy.
But, if you are wondering about the accuracy of these kits and whether you should rely solely on them, don’t worry we will guide you. Here’s everything you need to know about the rapid antigen test for Covid-19.
Rapid Antigen Test For Covid-19: Here’s What We Know So Far
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Q: Which rapid antigen self-test are available in Singapore?
A: There are four rapid antigen self-test kits that have received interim authorisation from the Health Sciences Authority (HSA). As stated above, these will be sold by pharmacies from June 16 onwards.
The Abbott PanBio COVID-19 Antigen Self-test
QuickVue At-Home OTC COVID-19 Test
SD Biosensor SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Self-Test Nasal
SD Biosensor Standard Q COVID-19 Ag Home Test
ARTs will detect the viral proteins in the nasal swab samples of infected individuals and usually work best in the early stages of infection.
Q: Where to buy the rapid antigen self-test?
A: ART Kits will be available at selected Unity, Watsons, and Guardian outlets islandwide.
From June 16, ART self-kits will be dispensed by pharmacists at selected retail pharmacies.
Sale at more retail locations to be opened up progressively.
Customers will have to consult a pharmacist before purchasing them. HSA further informed that these kits can be brought without a doctor’s prescription.
Quantum Technologies Global, the distributor of the QuickVue tests, will provide training to pharmacists on how to teach customers the correct usage of the tests.
1. Guardian stores
All 79 Guardian stores with an in-store pharmacy will carry the COVID-19 ART kits including the Guardian store at the Giant outlet in Suntec City. Customers can visit Guardian’s website to use the “Pharmacy” filter to locate these stores.
Kits available: The Abbott PanBioTM COVID-19 Antigen Self-test and the QuickVue At-Home OTC COVID-19 Test.
2. Unity pharmacies
39 Unity pharmacies will offer the test kits from June 16.
These stores were “specially selected” as they have in-store pharmacists who are “professionally trained” to see if customers are suitable to use the ART kits and provide information on how to use them, said the spokesperson.
3. Watson stores
The self-test kits will be gradually expanded to more Watsons stores and Watsons Online in the second phase. Consumers will be able to locate Watsons pharmacy stores using the store finder option on the company’s website or via the store locator on the Watsons SG mobile app.
Kits available: The Abbot Panbio COVID-19 Antigen Self-Test and Quidel QuickVue At-Home OTC COVID-19 Test kits will be available at all Watsons pharmacy stores in the first phase of the test kit rollout.
From June 16, Quantum Technologies Global will have about 500,000 tests available, and more kits will be flown in from the United States in the coming weeks, said a company spokesperson to CNA.
Abbott further said that they are “well-positioned” to fulfill the demand for COVID-19 tests.
Q: What is the cost of these tests?
A: The sale of these kits will initially be limited to 10 per person to ensure that there are “adequate supplies for all.” As more supplies will be available for retail sales, the authorities will “eventually allow test kits to be freely purchased,” according to the authorities.
Watson pharmacy will stick to MOH’s recommended guidelines for the selling price of the kits. Price: S$10 to S$13 per test kit depending on the size of the pack purchased.
Q: How do ART kits work?
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A: If you are using the self-test kits, here’s what you need to do:
Collect the nasal sample using the swabs provided in the kits.
Prepare the nasal sample with the buffer and tube provided.
Once the sample is ready, you can use it with the test device and then read the results.
Follow the instructions mentioned in the leaflet to get valid results.
Note: The instructions for all four self-test kits may differ slightly. For instance, the QuickVue test uses a test strip dipped in the buffer solution. On the other hand, the kit manufactured by Abbott involves dripping the buffer solution on a rapid test device.
Abbott mentioned that for children who are younger than 14, an adult caretaker should help collect the nasal samples and conduct the test procedures.
Q: ART vs PCR: What is the accuracy rate?
A: According to HSA, COVID antigen rapid test can achieve a sensitivity of about 80 percent for cases with higher viral loads and a specificity range of 97 to 100 percent.
ARTs have lower sensitivity than the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. HSA in a press release clarified that it means such tests have a “higher chance of false-negative results.”
Q: What causes a false-negative result?
A: Incorrect sample preparation or testing process when using the test, or a low viral protein level in the user’s nasal sample – for instance, one to two days after potential exposure to the virus – could also result in a false-negative result.
It is therefore very important to follow the instructions properly as mentioned on the kit. Infectious diseases expert Dr Leong Hoe Nam has urged people to follow the instructions “to the letter.”
He said, “A properly done test will “carry a similar sensitivity” to a PCR test, especially if it is repeated every three to five days.”
Note: Sensitivity here refers to the test’s ability to correctly detect COVID-19 in individuals with the. On the other hand, specificity refers to the test’s ability to correctly identify individuals without COVID-19.
Q: What to do if your test results are positive?
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A: If you test positive on the self-test kits, you should “immediately approach” a Swab and Send Home Public Health Preparedness Clinic (SASH PHPC) for a confirmatory PCR test.
Following that, you need to self-isolate until you receive a negative PCR test result.
If you test negative on the self-test ART kit, you should continue to remain vigilant. Ensure that you follow all the COVID-19 safety norms strictly.
If you have COVID symptoms, you need to visit a doctor for a full diagnosis and PCR test. It is advisable to not just rely on an ART self-test kit.
Singapore will gradually move back to Phase 3 (Heightened Alert) in two steps. With one set of measures taking effect from 14 June and another from 21 June. While the country will ensure that more self-test kits are available at retail locations progressively, it is your duty to also follow the COVID guidelines strictly.
Mask up, maintain hand hygiene and get your vaccination!
News source: CNA