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As Covid-19 cases decline, demand for self-test drops

Updated on Jan 27, 2022 09:12 PM IST

As Mumbai reports a steady decline in daily Covid-19 cases, chemists have also recorded a drop in the sales of home self-testing kits over the past week

Mumbai’s test positivity rate (TPR) on January 7 was 29% and dropped to 21% on January 14. (AFP)

As Mumbai reports a steady decline in daily Covid-19 cases, chemists have also recorded a drop in the sales of home self-testing kits over the past week. Chemists said they have been cautious about excess ordering the kits, well aware that the demand may fluctuate suddenly.

“There is no return policy for these kits, so most chemists have ordered stocks that would last for a short term,” Hakim Kapasi, who runs a chemist shop in Marol, said. “I was selling at least 100 self-test kits daily in the first two weeks of January, but now I am barely selling eight to nine a day.”

“People could have also hoarded a lot of kits in the beginning,” said Kapasi, a member of the Andheri Chemist Association with over 400 members.

The availability of self-test kits during the third wave of the pandemic distorted the true picture, as a large number of patients have likely tested positive but have not updated their reports on the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) portal.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did take a note of this discrepancy and last week mandated the chemists to take down the names, addresses, and contact details of the people who bought the kits. However, the daily cases had already begun declining by then.

“We have started sending the details to the BMC and the FDA every day. It’s easier now because the sales are very low,” said Kapasi.

Vaibhav Pitalia, who runs New Empire Chemist in Vile Parle, said he was selling over 125 kits in early January and the highest sales were on January 4, 5 and 6. “Now, I am selling a maximum of 10 kits a day.”

Mumbai’s test positivity rate (TPR) on January 7 was 29% and dropped to 21% on January 14. On Thursday, the city recorded 1,384 cases and its TPR further declined to 3.2%.

City doctors have also seen a drop in their Covid-19 consultations, even as there is a spurt in flu cases due to the dip in temperature over the past few days.

“It has been difficult to differentiate between Covid-19 and regular season flu as both have same symptoms,” said physician Dr Pratit Samdani who practises in south Mumbai.

“I start patients on immediate treatment, but I prefer a RT-PCR test to confirm or rule out Covid-19,” said Samdani who was consulting over 25 Covid19-related cases in the first two weeks of January, and has now seen a 50% drop in such consultations.

Infectious disease expert Dr Om Srivastava, who is also on Maharashtra’s Covid-19 task force, has also recorded a 10% drop in Covid19-related consultations.

“There is a slight drop but many patients continue to come with a positive home test result,” he said, adding that ICU admissions have not reduced. “It’s too soon to say that the wave is waning because so much self-testing is happening in the community. It’s best to wait till February-end to analyse the situation in Mumbai,” he said.

Seven self-test kits have been approved by the ICMR including Coviself by Mylab, CoviFind by Meril Diagnostics, and PanBio by Abbott.

Mylab’s managing director and co-founder Hasmukh Rawal said they have not recorded any decline in the sales as of now. “The sales and the number of cases do not always have a real-time relationship. There can be a lag due to the distribution channel and many other factors such as customers wanting to purchase the kits for future use.”

According to BMC officials, of the total cases being reported every day, around 2% are of those from home testing. As per data, between January 1 and 24, a total of 1,98,000 people have uploaded their test results of whom 4,397 are positive. The daily contribution of cases out of home testing kits is not much to result in a spike in the near future, they said.

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