Test kit snags worsen

Test kit snags worsen

File photo dated Jan 14 shows people queue to buy subsidised Covid-19 coronavirus rapid antigen (ATK) tests at a Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) pharmacy in Bangkok. (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP)
File photo dated Jan 14 shows people queue to buy subsidised Covid-19 coronavirus rapid antigen (ATK) tests at a Government Pharmaceutical Organisation (GPO) pharmacy in Bangkok. (Photo by Lillian SUWANRUMPHA / AFP)

The threat posed by the highly transmissible Omicron coronavirus variant makes rapid testing more than necessary. Yet the high prices of test kits and shortage of supply have made containing the pandemic that much harder.

Since the new virus strain, which follows Delta, was detected shortly before the New Year, infections have risen significantly. Previously, infections were limited to those who had travelled from abroad. Now it is dominant among local transmissions.

The Prayut Chan-o-cha government initially tried to distribute free test kits to the public but they ran out quickly, forcing people have to buy their own.

Many, however, find the kits are not available. Where they are able to find kits, they are mostly unaffordable at more than 100 baht per set.

The Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO) and National Health Security Office (NHSO), two state agencies distributing the test kits, have performed poorly in this matter.

The GPO allocated a number of test kits, 700 baht per box (35 baht per item) with one person limited to a quota of one box a month, for online sale through its www.gpoplanet.com website. It crashed 40 minutes after the sale began on the first day.

The following day, the website collapsed after 10 minutes. Onsite sales are riddled with problems as people are scrambling for kits at its eight branches in Bangkok. In addition to high prices, those in the provinces have a limited chance to buy the kits as the kits are mostly concentrated in Bangkok and big cities.

The NHSO had about 8.5 million test kits for distribution. But its allocation plan, two free test kits for a person every 10 days via the government's Pao Tang app, and also through drug stores and community health centres in its network, is also a flop, as supplies ran out quickly.

The shortages have made people wonder how many test kits exactly the agency had for distribution.

High demand for the Covid-19 test kits has raised the price significantly and all state agencies are in limbo. On Jan 6, the Commerce Ministry started monitoring antigen test kit (ATK) prices following reports of overpriced kits.

It threatened to charge those selling the test kits at high cost, but no action has been taken, while costs remain high, placing a burden on consumers.

High ATK prices, and the shortage, have dealt a heavy blow to lower-income earners, whose poor living conditions, often in cramped areas, make it hard to observe distancing.

ATK supply also is concentrated in Bangkok and the big cities. Fake and low-quality test kits are another issue that needs to be addressed.

Needless to say, the shortage of high-quality test kits has hindered the government's effort to curb the pandemic.

In fact, it's the government's duty to allocate free ATK tests and health services concerning the coronavirus as the disease is categorised as an epidemic that needs to be curbed urgently.

Some of those infected have to fight against the disease on their own. Such debacles means the virus will not go away anytime soon.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

Email : anchaleek@bangkokpost.co.th

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