I READ with interest the recent announcement by Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Alexander Nanta Linggi on the proposed move to make Covid-19 self-test kits available at supermarkets, convenience stores, and petrol stations.
At first impression, this might seem to be a practical move, as it would make it more convenient for consumers to get the self-test kits. While I understand that low prices and easy access will benefit consumers, we nevertheless cannot simply opt for convenience at the expense of safety or quality.
What I mean by this is self-test kits are currently available at pharmacies, which already exist in every township, suburb and residential area.
When we purchase self-test kits from pharmacies, we can be assured that they are approved and certified by the Medical Device Authority (MDA) under the Health Ministry.
But when you allow various other outlets to sell them, I believe that somewhere along the line, there will be counterfeits or kits that are not approved by the relevant authorities.
When the Covid-19 pandemic first broke out, the demand for face masks shot up drastically. There was a shortage at first, but when they became readily available, a lot of enterprising people began to sell masks. Some of the face masks do not meet the required medical standards and cannot fulfil their purpose of preventing infections.
There were even reports that used masks were being recycled to produce new ones! By this analogy, if self-test kits are made available easily at multiple outlets, issues of counterfeit or unapproved kits may also arise. Even now, we are hearing that some self-test kits sold online seem to be producing inaccurate results.
As long as Covid-19 remains in our midst, this may lead to the possibility of a black market with no proper quality control. We know how creative and resourceful Malaysians can be, hence we do not want something as important as these self-test kits to be the object of such scams.
As a father of two, I am more confident buying self-test kits from a pharmacist or a proper healthcare provider, as I know they would have been verified and approved by the MDA.
Covid-19 self-test kits are currently available at pharmacies, and I truly believe this should be maintained.
Recently, I read that in countries such as the United Kingdom and India, self-test kits are only available at pharmacies and other certified bodies.
The way I see it, our government needs to put the safety of the rakyat above everything else.
I’m also wondering why the announcement to expand the sale of self-test kits to supermarkets, convenience stores and petrol stations was made by the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister and not the Health Minister.
Shouldn’t the matter of healthcare be under the Health Ministry, especially when its minister, Khairy Jamaluddin, had announced last month that pharmacies are the best places to buy Covid-19 self-test kits?
This contradiction between the two ministries shows there is lack of communication and understanding between them, and this could create problems that could put the safety of the public at risk.