With the weekly home rapid antigen test (RAT) becoming mandatory for students to attend school from Sunday, pharmacies in Doha on Thursday reported a growing demand for such kits as parents made last-minute preparations for the resumption of physical classes.
The Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MoEHE) had on Wednesday announced the return of students to schools and kindergartens with 100% in-person attendance from January 30, while adhering to all Covid-19 precautionary and preventive measures.
A rapid antigen test has to be conducted on a weekly basis at home for all students of public and private schools and kindergartens across all grades. A negative result will enable them to enter the school building, provided the test takes place within a maximum of 48 hours before returning to school.
Yesterday, an employee of a leading pharmacy chain in the country told Gulf Times that they received a large number of customers looking for RAT kits.
“Customers, mostly parents I believe, started coming to our branch from Wednesday looking for RAT kits but the number was really big on Thursday - from morning until the evening,” she said, adding that their other branches had similar experiences.
She noted that all their stores now have enough supplies of RAT kits to meet an expected demand surge following the MoEHE's announcement.
The ministry's directive noted that students who test positive must visit the nearest health centre to confirm the test result, "follow health isolation procedures and attend classes through the distance learning system if the student's health condition permits this”.
Another pharmacy employee at a store along Airport Road echoed similar statements, saying that RAT kits have been among their fast-moving items since the start of the latest Covid-19 wave.
“We ran out of RAT kits for a while because of the huge demand from residents but were able to replenish the supplies immediately and I think we have enough to sell,” he said.
It was a similar experience at another pharmacy, where the employees present said they have been getting a steady stream of customers looking for RAT kits. "We anticipate more customers and a surge in demand during the weekend, before school on Sunday," said one of them.
RAT kits' prices vary, depending on the brand and quantity, it is learnt. These are available for QR20 to QR25 per piece in general, while in some stores kits are available for less while others cost QR35. People can also buy in bigger quantities, with some brands coming in packs of 25 for QR625, five for QR100 and other options.
An Asian expatriate who has two children studying at a community school in Doha said he found a brand that sells 25 pieces of RAT kits for QR299 via online order and home delivery. He said he was prompted to order online as a hypermarket had run out of stocks yesterday.
The MoPH had earlier issued a circular to stores fixing the maximum selling price for Covid 19 rapid test kit.