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Two vending machines dispensing antigen rapid test kits at Blk 363 Woodlands Ave 5 on Sept 19, 2021. — TODAY pic
Two vending machines dispensing antigen rapid test kits at Blk 363 Woodlands Ave 5 on Sept 19, 2021. — TODAY pic

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SINGAPORE, Sept 19 — Antigen rapid test kits have been out of stock at several retail supermarkets, pharmacies and convenience stores in recent weeks due to increased demand, with some customers buying them in bulk.

TODAY reporters have observed over the past few days that such self-test kits, which allow individuals to do nasal swab tests themselves at home, have run out at various locations across the island.

This comes as the number of locally transmitted Covid-19 cases has been on the rise. Singapore recorded 1,004 new cases on Saturday (Sept 18), the highest single-day tally since April 23 last year. 

When the test kits became available at retail pharmacies in June, consumers could buy only up to 10 of them, but the limit was lifted when sales were extended to supermarkets and convenience stores from July 16.

TODAY visited 13 such stores on Friday and Saturday. Those in the Marine Terrace area in Marine Parade were completely sold out, while test kits that were restocked at several outlets were quickly snapped up.

A pharmacist at the Watsons outlet in Bedok Mall said that 100 boxes that were brought in on Friday had been snapped up within half a day.

When asked why he thought they were running out so quickly, he said it could be because firms are making their workers do self-testing.

A woman, who declined to give her name and age, turned up to get a test kit for her child who was on a leave of absence, saying she could not find any at Guardian outlets in Marine Parade and Bedok Mall.

Staff at the mall’s Guardian outlet said the kits had been out of stock for the past three days and that some people bought them in bulk for their companies.

Over at Ngee Ann City mall, staff said that fresh stock would arrive every few days but sell out very quickly, and that they have seen people buy “a thousand” kits.

Graphic designer Zheng Yihui, 39, said that her company required staff to get tested every week. This applies to her even though she works from home.

At Paya Lebar Quarter mall, there were test kits available at the NTUC FairPrice Finest and Guardian outlets.

In response to TODAY’s queries, an NTUC FairPrice spokesperson said that demand has “more than doubled in the past week, compared to the week before”.

“This could be due to increased awareness of the self-test kits in light of the elevated numbers of Covid-19 cases recently in the community.

“We continue to work closely with (the Health Sciences Authority’s) approved suppliers to ensure sufficient supplies and wider selections to cater to the varying needs of the community.”

A spokesperson from Watson’s also said that the store has seen “a sudden tremendous increase in demand” in recent weeks from consumers and corporate clients. Limited stocks also mean that supply is tight at some outlets.

The spokesperson said that Watson’s is working with suppliers to replenish its stock and exploring alternatives to boost supply.

A Guardian spokesperson said there are sufficient test kits at its outlets. “However, stocks and brand availability may differ in stores as we are experiencing an increase in demand from customers for bulk or individual buys,” she added.

Members of the public who receive a health risk warning or health risk alert from the Ministry of Health can now also get test kits at 100 vending machines in 56 locations across Singapore.

The machines were deployed yesterday, and individuals can scan their Singapore-issued identity card to obtain a pack of three kits. — TODAY

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