Press Statement By Kelvin Yii:
The Federal Government must take pro-active steps to ensure not just sufficient supplies of medical items especially availability of Covid-19 RTK Self-test kits nationwide, but also to make sure prices of such test kits remain affordable and not see a sudden spike in prices especially when demands for it increases in view of the Omicron wave nationwide.
One of the fundamentals to “shorten the surge period” of Omicron is the need for quick and fast testing due to the variant’s swift pace of transmission, which again place the importance of the shift to the self-administered tests from PCR testing, which has long been considered the gold standard for detecting Covid-19.
Such transition is so important to ensure infection-detection at labs do not buckle under the strain of unprecedented numbers of cases with many of these health facilities already facing a shortage in staff. An uncontrollable runaway Omicron outbreak will definitely drive-up hospitalisation rates and strains testing systems.
With the high transmissibility of Omicron, it is inevitable that we will see more and more infections, close contacts and the need for more testing especially if the person develops symptoms. The problem will likely get worse as more people travel for the holidays and fuel new outbreaks, and even the country facing possibility of “super-spreader events’ such as the upcoming Johor State Elections.
If this transition to self-testing is not managed properly, we will see our country running out of test-kits like how countries like the USA, UK, Australia and many other countries are facing. A surge in cases driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant has stretched these countries Covid-19 testing capabilities to their limit. Rapid antigen tests are out of stock at many drug stores, and lines for PCR tests stretch around the block in cities across these countries.
In USA alone, Covid-19 is spreading so quickly that needed between 3 million and 5 million tests every day in early February, which is far more than the country currently conducts or even producing.
Even closer to home, States such as Sabah have reported face a shortage of such RTK self-test kits in view of their high case detection especially in past few days with 1600 cases detected yesterday alone. This may not be an isolated event and proper monitoring and intervention by the Federal Government must be to assure adequate available test kits for Sabah and all those places affected.
First and foremost, the government must go a general review and audit of the availability of such test kits nationwide. With that, they should also do a projection of the daily needs of testing especially in view of this Omicron wave and ensure that supplies and production of such kits are sufficient. Incentives and grants can be granted to local companies to produce such test kits more and ideally it should be distributed free to the public.
Such self-test kits are important to properly monitor and control the spread of Omicron especially in view of opening of schools and more and more people going back to work. With quicker detection, we then can do quicker intervention to ensure we do not fly blind during this wave.
As companies and even individuals are encouraged to self-test frequently, the government plays an important role to ensure that such test-kits are continuously available and remain continuously affordable.
Omicron has been a game changer. It has really catalysed the shift to large-scale rapid antigen testing, and we must be ready for it or will continuously be left behind.