Pharmacies now selling rapid Covid-19 home test kits

Results cannot be used for travel or green pass system but could be popular among passenger flying to countries with test shortages

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Some pharmacies have begun selling self-testing kits for Covid-19, although the results are not recognised by UAE health authorities.

Lateral flow, or rapid antigen tests, have been widely used in the UK and Europe for home testing.

In contrast to PCRs, which have to be processed in a lab, lateral flow tests can be performed by the person taking them. Results take 15-20 minutes. The results are not considered as accurate as a professional PCR test.

Lateral flow test results carried out at home are not accepted for any official purposes in the Emirates, including airline travel or the Al Hosn green pass system. They are used by professional medics for Abu Dhabi's new border checks.

Quote
A popular question a lot of people are asking is, can I use this to cross borders or go to the airport? Of course, no
Pharmacist

The kits could be used by travellers going overseas, who may wish to self-test as a precaution once they reach their destination. In the UK, it has become increasingly difficult to find PCR tests or lateral flow kits.

The tests are available at some pharmacies, including CHS online, which charges Dh40 per Panbio antigen test for home delivery in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

A pharmacist told The National her chain has recorded significant demand.

"Some people buy two or three boxes," she said.

"A popular question a lot of people are asking is, can I use this to cross borders or go to the airport? Of course, no.

"I had one person say they were positive, what should they do? I said they had to go to the doctor."

Like PCRs, lateral flow tests require a sample from the nose.

The swab is then placed in a tube and swirled in a liquid that is dropped on to a test device, which has a control line. A second line will appear if the virus that causes Covid-19 is detected in the sample.

Authorities in Abu Dhabi are now using them to screen people who test positive on the EDE scanner on entry to the emirate from Dubai.

Anyone who tests positive via the antigen test is fitted with a tracking wristband and required to isolate at home or in suitable accommodation.

“It’s one of several options for testing for the virus that causes Covid-19 and may be more convenient than laboratory-based tests and point-of-care tests,” said a spokesman for Canadian Specialist Hospital in Dubai.

“Consider keeping self-tests at home or where you may need them. It can also be used as one of many risk-reduction measures, along with vaccination, masking, and physical distancing, that protect you and others by reducing the chance of viral transmission.

“You can self-test, even if you don’t have symptoms or are fully vaccinated, in order to make decisions that will help prevent spreading Covid-19 to others.”

Some experts have said rapid testing at home may even provide a route out of the pandemic. They say regular use would significantly reduce the spread of the virus in the community.

“Antigen tests are ‘contagiousness’ tests,” wrote Dr Michael Mina, an assistant professor of epidemiology and immunology/infectious diseases at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, in an opinion piece in Time magazine. He has long been an advocate for their widespread adoption.

“They are extremely effective (>98 per cent sensitive compared to the typically used PCR test) in detecting Covid-19 when individuals are most contagious.”

Updated: December 22, 2021, 2:04 PM
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