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ART test kits fly off the shelves as Covid-19 cases spike in Singapore

ART test kits fly off the shelves as Covid-19 cases spike in Singapore
The estimated number of Covid-19 cases in the week of May 5 to 11 rose to 25,900 cases, compared with 13,700 cases in the previous week.
PHOTO: The Straits Times/Gin Tay

SINGAPORE - Covid-19 antigen rapid test (ART) kits flew off the shelves at many pharmacies over the weekend after news broke that Singapore is facing a new wave.

Cases of Covid-19 have been rising in the last two weeks, a result of the Covid-19 sub-variants, which scientists have nicknamed "FLiRT," drawing from the letters in the names of their mutations.

Globally, variant JN.1 and its sub-lineages, including KP.1 and KP.2, remain the predominant Covid-19 variants. The combined proportion of KP.1 and KP.2 currently accounts for more than two-thirds of the cases in Singapore.

As of May 3, the World Health Organisation has classified KP.2 as a variant under monitoring.

There are currently no indications, globally or locally, that KP.1 and KP.2 are more transmissible or cause more severe disease than other circulating variants.

Watsons has seen demand for Covid-19 test kits surge by more than 150 per cent in the past week, its Singapore managing director Irene Lau said.

"Our stores are well-stocked, and we have scheduled replenishments. We continuously seek collaborations with partners to promptly address any further increases in demand." 

A Guardian spokeswoman said the chain has seen an increase in demand for Covid-19-related items, such as masks, test kits and cough and cold medicine, in line with the recent wave.

"Despite this rise, there have been no instances of insufficient stock over the past two weeks. Guardian is proactively managing our inventory and working very closely with our suppliers to ensure that we maintain sufficient stock levels to meet our customers' needs during this period," she said.

Heeding the Government's call for people to get an additional Covid-19 vaccine dose was Mr Senthil Nathan, 47, who was at the Sengkang joint testing and vaccination centre (JTVC) getting his fifth shot on May 20.

Mr Senthil, who works in the information technology industry, told The Straits Times he underwent a heart transplant more than 10 years ago and is on immunosuppressant drugs and has low immunity.

Also at the centre was teacher Chan May Ling, 39, who brought her children Choo Teng Kai, 11, and Teng Nee, eight, for their fourth jab as the family will be going to Australia during the June holidays.

Retired couple June Yeo, 79, and Mr David Chan, 80, took their fifth shot at Kaki Bukit JTVC.

"At our age, we are afraid that if we get it, there will be complications, and we'll have to go to hospital," Madam Yeo said.

The couple also worried about infecting their grandchildren. Mr Chan said: "We see them practically two to three times a week. If anything happens, we cannot see them."

A couple in their 70s, who wanted to be known as Mr and Mrs Lim, were also receiving their shots - their sixth - as they were worried about the new strain.

"The problem is that people treat Covid-19 too lightly and do not go for annual Covid-19 jabs like they would for other things such as flu jabs," Mr Lim said, adding that they had Covid-19 once and the symptoms were quite mild, "only slightly worse than the flu".

Eighty per cent of the local population have completed their initial or additional dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, but have not received a dose within the last year, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said.

Some seniors that ST spoke to prefer to take the wait-and-see approach.

Retired cabby and odd-job labourer Chou Keng Lin, 87, said he was still undecided about going for an additional dose of the vaccine, but will take precautions.

"I will wear a mask in crowded places like hawker centres, but I am not really scared of the new Covid-19 wave as I have already taken four doses, and I'm healthy," he said.

Mr Chou added that he has led a long and healthy life and, with his children all grown up, he is not as worried.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on May 18 urged people at greatest risk of severe illness, including those aged 60 and above, to receive another dose of the Covid-19 vaccine if they have not done so in the last 12 months.

He said Singapore has seen rising cases of infection in the past two weeks, with the wave expected to peak in the next two to four weeks.

The estimated number of Covid-19 cases in the week of May 5 to 11 rose to 25,900 cases, compared with 13,700 cases in the previous week. The average daily Covid-19 hospitalisations rose to about 250, from 181 the week before.

Like Mr Chou, retiree Peter Kang, 88, said he has also taken four doses of the vaccine and has not made up his mind about getting a fifth dose. His main concern was the risk of side effects.

He said: "I try to keep away from crowded places, and I already seldom go to such places anyway. I'm still considered quite healthy."

Other seniors among the eight ST spoke to said they would not get an additional dose unless it was made mandatory.

Retiree Goh Ah Siong, 75, said: "We old people are scared to take the vaccine because we are scared of jabs... I'll get another dose only if the Government says I must."

Madam June Chong, 72, a cleaning supervisor, said she has already taken four doses of the vaccine and was not keen on taking another as her last jab had hurt her arm.

She said: "This sort of thing (Covid-19 wave), it comes and goes... Covid-19 is just like a cold and cough. We treat it as normal now and have already adapted to living with it."

The updated Covid-19 vaccines continue to be free for all eligible residents, and those enrolled in the Healthier SG national preventive health initiative can get their jabs at the growing network of about 250 participating Healthier SG clinics islandwide.

Additional mobile vaccination teams are being deployed to selected heartland locations in the coming weeks, in an effort to reach more seniors.

From May 21 to June 29, the five JTVCs will also be extending their operating hours on Saturdays and the eve of public holidays from 9am to 7pm, instead of the usual 9am to 1pm.

MOH will be sending out SMS messages to individuals who have not taken any Covid-19 vaccination in the past 12 months, to remind them to keep their vaccination up to date.

Visit to locate the nearest vaccination site and types of vaccines offered at each site.

  • Additional reporting by Gracia Yap and Leow Wen Xuan

This article was first published in The Straits Times. Permission required for reproduction.

ALSO READ: Singapore seeing new Covid-19 wave, vaccination recommended especially for seniors, says Ong Ye Kung

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