Vietnam increases production of Covid-19 test kits as commercial flights reopen

By Thu Anh, Chi Le   September 25, 2020 | 01:10 am PT
Vietnam increases production of Covid-19 test kits as commercial flights reopen
A woman has her samples taken for Covid-19 testing upon arriving at Noi Bai International Airport, Hanoi, March 18, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.
With over 20,000 passengers expected to arrive in Vietnam each month as commercial flights resume, manufacturers of test kits are increasing their production.

Viet A Technologies Joint Stock Company, the country's biggest producer of the kits, is producing 100,000 a day, both real-time reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) kits and antigen rapid test kits with matching sensitivity, and can increase it to five times if necessary.

The company has supplied nearly 90 percent of all Covid-19 test kits to medical centers and hospitals during the two waves of Covid-19. The first began in January and the second in late July after more than three months without local transmission.

Vu Dinh Hiep, deputy director of the company, said the company is already storing more than one million test kits to meet the growing demand as Vietnam prepares to restart commercial flights to seven Asian destinations.

The government has given the green light for flying to mainland China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand, but airlines are grappling with practical issues and have yet to finalize their schedules.

Those entering Vietnam for more than 14 days have to be quarantined and tested for Covid-19 at least twice using RT-PCR method, each costing VND734,000 ($31.53), while those coming to the country for less than 14 days are allowed to isolate themselves at their workplace or hotels.

Hiep said the company can provide enough kits for RT-PCR tests at airports.

"It only takes two to three hours to get the result," he said.

All passengers will be tested on arrival and again on the sixth day.

Two other local companies Medicon and Sao Thai Duong along with the Central Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology are preparing for the production of antigen test kits to serve flight resumption.

Dao Dinh Khoi, director of Medicon, said once completed, its test kits are expected to cost $3.50 apiece, which is 70 percent of the global average price.

Medicon is scheduled to register for the circulation of its test kits by the end of October, Khoi said.

He said the company is capable of producing between 50,000 and 100,000 kits per day.

The health and science-technology ministries are responsible for checking and assessing all antigen detection test kits produced by local firms.

Nguyen Thi Huong Lien, deputy director of Sao Thai Duong, said it is in the process of research for producing test kits using the reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (RT-LAMP) technique that takes shorter time than and is as precise as the RT-PCR method.

A commercial flight from South Korea's Seoul is scheduled to land at Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi on Friday afternoon, the first routine inbound commercial flight in more than six months.

Vietnam suspended all international flights on March 25.

The country has recorded 1,069 Covid-19 cases, 40 of which are still active. The country has gone over two weeks without domestic infections of the novel coronavirus.

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