Pharmacies, online shops to offer antigen self-test kits nationwide amid soaring COVID-19 infections
Published: Mar 15, 2022 09:27 PM
Citizens in Jilin Province receive nucleic acid testing on March 9, 2022. Photo: VCG

Citizens in Jilin Province receive nucleic acid testing on March 9, 2022. Photo: VCG

After China approved COVID-19 antigen self-test kits for public use and approved 11 such products from local companies, a number of online service platforms including Alipay, Meituan and as well as local pharmacies rolled out pre-order services nationwide on Tuesday. The recent Omicron-fueled surge has led to cases soaring to more than 15,000 in just half a month in 28 provinces around the country. 

Northeast China's Jilin Province is battling its worst outbreak since the pandemic first emerged, registering over 8,000 cases in the past two weeks. Jilin published a manual for the antigen self-tests on Tuesday, which specified that people under home or centralized quarantine should take the tests by themselves every day in the first five days of their isolation, along with regular nucleic acid testing. 

Residents can also buy the self-test kits online or from local pharmacies. Those with positive results must immediately report it to epidemic management personnel and they will be transferred to fever clinics at designated medical institutions for further diagnosis with nucleic acid tests.  

The province announced on Monday that it had acquired 12 million antigen testing kits.

Hangzhou in East China's Zhejiang Province was among the first cities to distribute antigen test kits to residents. The Global Times learned from Chinese social media platforms that the test kits were given out for free by companies and schools as well as in public venues such as parks. Some said it only takes a few minutes for the results to show, "just like a pregnancy test." 

One Hangzhou resident with the online name "Little Fish" told the Global Times on Tuesday that her community has been distributing antigen self-test kits to each household. "The test kit is really convenient and easy. With a gentle swirl of the cotton swab inside my nose, there is no feeling of discomfort, unlike the nucleic acid tests."

Wuhan in Central China's Hubei Province has also started to sell antigen test kits in local pharmacies. They were sold out in only a few hours. 

Alipay, China's online payment giant and public service provider, launched pre-orders for the antigen test kits on Tuesday, and aims to deliver them within five days across the country.

Other e-commerce platforms including Meituan and have also rolled out such services. 

The National Health Commission said on Tuesday that various platforms online and offline will offer more antigen test products in the coming days. Those who test positive in their homes must report it to their communities and wait until emergency rescue vehicles arrive to take them to medical institutions for nucleic acid tests, the commission noted, adding that the most important thing is that positive antigen cases are transferred in a closed-loop manner. 

To boost the early discovery of COVID-19 cases, the commission announced on Friday that antigen detection will serve as an option for COVID-19 testing, although nucleic acid test results will still be the decisive method for diagnosis.

Chinese health experts said that the fast spread of Omicron has prompted China to adjust its COVID-19 response to be more targeted and scientific, and more residents may be quarantined at home instead of in designated hotels.