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Covid tests get pricey as infections and anxiety climb

By Staff reporters   February 23, 2022 | 05:27 am PT
As the number of infections rise, the surging demand for Covid-19 tests and medicines has pushed prices up by double digits.

Cao Thu Trang in Hanoi bought five rapid test kits Sunday for VND80,000 per pack, up 33 percent from the day before.

"I have no choice but to pay what the pharmacy asks."

Other customers in Hanoi have reported that they have seen rapid test kit prices increase by 15-20 percent in recent weeks, and some have had trouble buying them because of supply shortage.

PCR test services, which are more reliable than rapid tests, are also in high demand, with many people having trouble booking appointments at home or hospitals.

"The call center staff said that they are overloaded and cannot say for sure when a staff will come to my house and conduct the test," said Nam in Hanoi. He also said that he had to call a hospital three times before someone picked the phone up.

The shortage of Covid-19 test kits and testing services is happening even as the number of infections in Vietnam surges following the country relaxing restrictions and resuming international travel after two years of maintaining strict precautions.

Vietnam has confirmed 43,600 new daily Covid-19 cases on average in the last seven days.

A Covid-19 testing lab in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

A Covid-19 testing lab in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Ngoc Thanh

Although living with Covid-19 has become the new normal with the government prioritizing economic recovery, some people are still being overzealous and testing themselves daily.

Nhan and her husband are among the daily testers. They have spent nearly VND10 million ($438) on rapid test kits within a month.

"My mother-in-law would ask us to show our negative test results every day when we come back from work. She herself has underlying conditions, and she fears our children will get the virus," said the 34-year-old woman who lives in Hanoi’s Ha Dong District.

Since the Lunar New Year holiday in early this month, Nhan has bought 150 rapid test kits for her family.

Test rush

The fear of being infected has also prompted many to buy test kits in other localities, leading to shortages.

In central Nghe An Province, many pharmacies have been struggling to supply the surging demand this week as over 1,300 new cases are reported a day in the last seven days.

Some pharmacies have begun limiting purchases to five kits at a time per customer in order to prevent some from selling the products to others at higher prices.

A senior official at a medical center in the province’s Vinh Town, who asked to not be identified, said: "Many people are concerned about their health so they test every day. I do not think that is necessary."

In some localities, the prices of medicines related to flu and fever have also been rising in recent weeks.

In northern Quang Ninh Province, the price of Efferalgan, which helps relieves headaches and fever, has risen by 40 percent in four weeks to VND70,000 per box.

The province’s health department has also found that people are buying medicines that are not approved by the Ministry of Health for Covid-19 treatment.

One such medicine, Favipiravir, has seen its price rise by 40 percent to VND3.5 million in the last few weeks.

"The purchase of unauthorized medicine carries high risks and could lead to unpredictable consequences," the department has warned.

The rising prices have not deterred some people who are willing to pay more to ensure that they are negative for the novel coronavirus.

Chi Quan of Hanoi has been testing himself once every two days in the last two weeks as he wants to make sure he does not pass on the virus to his pregnant wife.

He said: "The cost of testing makes up about one-sixth of my monthly income now."

 
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