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Authorities evaluating applications by 6 companies to manufacture or assemble ART kits in Singapore

Authorities evaluating applications by 6 companies to manufacture or assemble ART kits in Singapore
A file photo of COVID-19 antigen rapid tests. (Photo: AFP/Damien Meyer)

SINGAPORE: Authorities have received applications from six antigen rapid test (ART) companies seeking to manufacture or assemble test kits locally, said Minister of State for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling in Parliament on Wednesday (Mar 2).

These applications are “in various stages of evaluation” by the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Health Sciences Authority (HSA), said Ms Low, who did not name the firms. 

She added that authorities “welcome” these applications, given that there are currently no companies manufacturing or assembling such kits locally.

She also said that once these are approved, the firms will be able to apply for grant and loan schemes that the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) and its statutory boards provide to support companies with their plans for local manufacturing.

There has been a surge in demand for ART kits in recent weeks, retailers told CNA previously.

In response to further questions by Member of Parliament (MP) Zhulkarnain Abdul Rahim (PAP-Chua Chu Kang), Ms Low also said authorities are “actively evaluating” other ART kit brands' eligibility for retail sale.

Two more brands of ART kits – Alltest and Indicaid – will be hitting the shelves this month.

“Two other brands, called Biocredit and Hotgen, have obtained satisfactory analytical validation results and are in the midst of obtaining their (Pandemic Special Access Route) registration prior to clinical validation,” she said.

Outlining the process of approval for retail sale, Ms Low said ART kits have to meet "stringent standards of quality, safety and performance", and must be verified for their accuracy when used by consumers.

For example, ART kits have to undergo a separate route for approval where they are being benchmarked against polymerase chain reaction tests, she said. 

This is necessary because ART kits are to be used widely by members of the public in self-test settings.

“So the implications on public health will be huge and significant if the kits approved for self-tests are not sufficiently accurate,” she said.

In response to questions about how the country will ensure a steady supply of such kits, Ms Low said the Government has “been able to respond to heightened demand” due to the country’s strategy of diversification, stockpiling and working closely with importers, distributors and retailers.

PRICES OF KITS

MP Gerald Giam (WP-Aljunied) also asked if the price of ART kits will be lowered when they are manufactured locally, given that “the current price of over S$5 per kit can still be a cost burden” for certain households.

Ms Low said MTI will continue to work closely with importers, distributors and retailers to bring in various brands of self-test ART kits and to “give choice and options to the consumers”.

She added: “In the last one year, because now we have a wider supply of ART kits ... the price of test kits actually has since fallen by almost half ... I think you can buy an ART kit for about $4.90."

She also said that price is one of the considerations that authorities look at when evaluating ART kits.

Ms Low noted that COVID-19 patients with mild or no symptoms can head to combined test centres and quick test centres for supervised self-tests. The Government has also distributed about 140,000 ART kits to low-income households, she said.

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Source: CNA/cl(mi)

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