When did you last use an ART kit?
Remember when ART kits were given out for free in vending machines during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to encourage regular testing?
There was also a time when people had to test negative with an ART kit every day before reporting to work.
Fast forward to 2023; most people in Singapore will likely only use ART kits in their daily routine if they work in healthcare or have COVID-19 symptoms.
Unfortunately, the latter scenario holds true for most people in Singapore lately.
Rise in Local COVID-19 Cases
On 2 December 2023, the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced that the number of local COVID-19 cases in the week of 19 November to 25 November doubled to 22,094 from 10,726 in the previous week.
According to MOH, the recent surge in infections may be attributed to various factors, including the spike in travelling during the year-end season and a decline in population immunity.
Pharmacies, FairPrice and Other Stores Run Out of ART Kits
As COVID-19 cases surge, many individuals are scrambling to purchase ART kits from different stores, only to discover that they are sold out.
The Straits Times reported that several pharmacies and stores have run out of ART kit stock in response to the increasing number of COVID-19 cases.
An investigation conducted on 6 December at six outlets in Bishan and Toa Payoh revealed that all of them had run out of ART kits. Only a few had managed to restock when The Straits Times revisited the stores a day later.
On 6 December, a FairPrice store located at Block 95 Lorong 4 Toa Payoh initially indicated that they were expecting a restock the following day. However, by 4pm on the next day, the stock had not arrived, and the store staff was uncertain about the arrival time.
An employee at the Unity outlet in Junction 8 mentioned that most outlets were facing stock shortages, having not restocked for several days.
The FairPrice Group, which oversees FairPrice supermarkets and Unity pharmacies, reported a significant surge in demand for ART kits from October to November.
They are actively collaborating with suppliers to ensure that an ample supply of ART kits is available in their stores to meet the needs of all customers.
Guardian has noticed a significant increase in demand for ART kits in the past week. They want to reassure customers that they have an adequate stock of these kits available.
They have promptly arranged regular restocking for all their Guardian stores to maintain well-stocked shelves.
However, the ART kits have run out of stock for those wanting to purchase them online.
A staff member at the 7-Eleven located outside Bishan MRT station indicated that the store had depleted its ART kit supply on 6 December, with no scheduled restock on their system.
At another 7-Eleven branch in Braddell MRT station, a small restock of 10 boxes, each containing two ART kits, arrived on 7 December. A store employee mentioned that customers typically purchase multiple boxes at once.
Similarly, two Watsons outlets, one near Braddell MRT station and the other in Junction 8, also received a limited restock of ART kits on 7 December. These kits are sold in boxes of 10, and a staff member predicted that these boxes would likely be sold out within a week.
According to Shin Min Daily News, a reader shared that on 5 December 2023, he visited three pharmacies but couldn’t find any ART kits available for purchase.
Another member of the public mentioned having to visit multiple stores before finally being able to obtain the ART kits.
MOH Encourages Singaporeans to Stay Current with COVID-19 Vaccinations
On 30 October 2023, the MOH introduced updated vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to enhance protection against the new variant of COVID-19.
One of these improvements is the monovalent Pfizer-BioNTech/Comirnaty vaccine, specifically designed to target the Omicron XBB.1.5 sublineage. This sublineage includes variants such as EG.5 (Eris) and BA.2.86.
By the end of November, the EG.5 virus variant and its sub-lineage HK.3 had become the predominant local sub-variants, accounting for over 70% of the cases.
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