KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 7 – A Sabah state minister today acknowledged that certain pharmacies in the state capital of Kota Kinabalu are experiencing shortages in Covid-19 antigen rapid test kits.
This is because such pharmacies do not keep a large amount of stock for commercial reasons.
“Nevertheless, some would be getting new stock within one to two days’ time. Meanwhile, some retail shops in Kota Kinabalu like 99 Speedmart and Bataras do have available test kits,” Sabah State Community Development and People’s Welfare Minister Shahelmy Yahya told CodeBlue today.
“I’ll be going for a spot-check later this early evening to assess the real situation.”
Two Sabah politicians earlier today complained about Covid-19 antigen rapid tests running out among retailers and even distributors in the state, amid the rise of Omicron variant cases.
Kota Kinabalu MP Chan Foong Hin said the sudden surge in demand for coronavirus tests began during the Chinese New Year season, as people sought to self-test for the virus before attending social gatherings like Chinese New Year open house or reunion dinners.
Before Chinese New Year, the usual demand for Covid-19 test kits was not that high in Sabah and local pharmacies did not stock much, Chan noted.
The spike of Omicron cases in Sabah, the DAP lawmaker said, further drove up demand for test kits.
“Test kits started running out of stock since the fifth day of Chinese New Year. Not only retailers don’t have ex-stock now, even distributors are facing similar problems too,” Chan told CodeBlue.
Ex-stock refers to goods that are available immediately from a supplier’s stock-holding.
“I urge KPDNHEP (Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs) and MOH (Ministry of Health) to step in to control the test kits market, this time even distribution. Government has to ensure adequate supply of test kits in Sabah too, not only concentrated in KL.”
Sabah Muda deputy chairman Amos Thien tweeted earlier today that local pharmacies in the state like Watson and Guardian have all run out of Covid-19 self-test kits.
“Without the test kit, we are flying blind over here,” he said.
Sabah State Local Government and Housing Minister Masidi Manjun tweeted that Sabah reported 1,600 new Covid-9 cases today, continuing the virus’ upward trend in the state. More than 99 per cent of today’s new infections were asymptomatic or mild in Categories One and Two.
Nationwide, MOH reported 11,034 new Covid-19 cases today.
According to the CovidNow site, Sabah recorded a seven-day average of 740 new Covid-19 cases, a 146 per cent rise from one week ago that was the third highest proportion of increase after Labuan and Perlis.
The East Malaysia state’s test positive rate is currently at about 10 per cent, the third highest behind Kelantan and Perlis. Positive rates exceeding 5 per cent indicate under-testing, as asymptomatic cases may not be captured by surveillance programmes.
Masidi said dealing with the Omicron wave was “very challenging, but we are encouraged by the fact that over 99 per cent of daily cases are in the mild category.”
Officially, Sabah has the lowest Covid-19 vaccine coverage in Malaysia, with 61.4 per cent of its total population fully vaccinated against the virus. The national average is 78.8 per cent.
However, Masidi told CodeBlue that official statistics of vaccine population coverage do not reflect the actual number of people vaccinated in Sasbah.
“The base figure is based on estimates and the latest census shows the number of immigrants is very much less than originally estimated. And we have not even factored in fully vaccinated Sabahans who are working and residing in Peninsular Malaysia,” he said.
He pointed out that in his state constituency of Karanaan in Ranau, for example, only around 75 per cent are vaccinated, according to official statistics. However, a physical count in every village in Karanaan revealed that only 314 people were unvaccinated, names of whom are known to health authorities.
“At this number, the vaccinated rate in my constituency is 98 per cent.”