KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 24 — Antigen rapid test kits (RTK-Ag) have been made available at RM70 for anyone who wants to be tested for Covid-19 at selected clinics in Selangor.
Bukit Gasing assemblyman Rajiv Rishyakaran had previously started the initiative exclusively for his constituents, but now he has expanded it to everyone as an effort to bring down the cost of Covid-19 testing and to make the test accessible to the public at large.
During a virtual press conference on affordable Covid-19 testing today, Rajiv said that the current rate of getting tested with the RTK-Ag in most private health care settings is between RM150 and RM180.
“I’m here to announce that we’ve managed to bring the price down. Now, it’s only RM70 for anyone to do a Covid-19 test by the antigen rapid test kit and this is without any government subsidy,” Rajiv said.
The RTK-Ag has a sensitivity of 90 per cent which simply means, 90 per cent will correctly return a positive result for 90 per cent of the people with the disease, but will give a mistaken negative result, or a false negative, for 10 per cent of the people who have the disease and should have tested positive. The RTK-Ag only takes 15 minutes for results to be ready.
Rajiv also highlighted the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) limitations when it comes to testing, as it focuses on close contacts of confirmed cases and clusters, but people who had casual contact or present with symptoms of Covid-19 are usually turned away from government hospitals because they do not meet MOH’s criteria for testing.
“What we are saying is, those who want to be tested, or need to be tested, should be able to get tested at an affordable price,” Rajiv said, without naming the selected clinics that provide the RM70 antigen rapid tests in Selangor.
“What Tony Fernandes did with Air Asia — ‘now everyone can fly’ — now everyone can test, so that’s the aim.”
Those looking to get tested under the initiative should share their name, address, identity card number, and contact number via WhatsApp to 016-3064104 to get an appointment date.
The Klang Valley is fast turning into the new Covid-19 epicentre in the country. The country’s economic centre recorded a 270 per cent increase in Covid-19 cases from 821 infections reported in the 43rd epidemiological week to 3,041 cases in the 47th week, according to MOH.
More Tests Can Be Purchased At Cheaper Price If Putrajaya Involved
According to Rajiv, the rapid antigen test kits have been purchased directly from SD Biosensor, which is the same company that MOH purchases their test kits from.
“We have procured the exact same RTK-Ag kits from the same vendor as MOH and we are providing these kits to participating clinics.
“We have negotiated a decent bulk price and thus are able to offer the test to the public at RM70 without subsidy. The doctors conducting the Covid-19 screening with the RTK-Ag kits are MOH-certified to conduct the test. We are still looking at possibly bringing the price down lower if and where possible,” the Bukit Gasing assemblyman said.
He also said that if MOH was on board in purchasing the test kits with them, then a bulk purchase could be made, which will then enable the price to be further lowered. Hence more people can get tested.
The World Health Organization (WHO) previously stated that agreements between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with SD Biosensor to produce antigen rapid diagnostic tests were only priced at a maximum of US$5 (RM20.46).
Rajiv said based on his discussion with principal distributors in Malaysia, he knows that the price for the RTK-Ag can come down even lower than the current price of RM70.
“If we are able to purchase test kits at a bulk volume through maybe the coordination from MOH, I think getting test kits down to even RM20, cheaper, is much possible,” Rajiv stressed.
GPs Can Get Involved In Testing
So far, there have only been two general practitioner (GP) clinics working with Rajiv’s office to conduct the RTK-Ag tests, both in Petaling Jaya, Rajiv said.
Hence, he has urged all GPs to join this initiative as RM70 testing gives a strong role for the GPs to play.
“I see far more GPs involved down the road because two GP clinics isn’t enough for the whole country,” Rajiv said. “Clinics in Johor Bahru, Penang, Sabah, and Sarawak should get involved in this.
Rajiv added: “If MOH can purchase these test kits and coordinate GPs to be able to do this testing or all the other private hospitals to do this testing, then we can definitely bring down the price of Covid-19 testing.”
“With 168 clusters still active, and new ones still being uncovered, our government health care personnel are burning out, having fought the pandemic since March,” the Bukit Gasing assemblyman said.
“It is time for the federal government to engage any parties who are willing to help and expand mass testing by making testing affordable across the board – in private and public health care. They should be heading a coordinated nationwide effort involving all parties, regardless of politics, if we hope to bring down the infectivity rate anytime soon.”
Rajiv also said the RTK-Ag test can solely be done by the GP themselves, only requiring a separate well-ventilated room at their clinic for testing purposes.
According to MOH’s guidelines on Covid-19 testing using RTK-Ag dated July 23, the sampling procedure for the RTK-Ag test should be done by a trained personnel and usage of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used. The testing, according to MOH guidelines, should be carried out in a biosafety cabinet due to safety reasons.