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Covid-19 self-test kits: How do they differ?

SINGAPORE – Antigen rapid test (ART) kits for use at home have been flying off the shelves as self-testing ourselves for Covid-19 becomes a regular part of people’s lives at work, school and home. The Straits Times checks out the various kits out there to find out how easy each of them are to use.

The kits cost between $8 and $13 apiece, with a lower per-kit price for larger packs.

Abbott PanBio Covid-19 Antigen Self-Test


ST PHOTO: HILLARY TAN

Wait time for results: 15 minutes
Number of rotations in each nostril: Five
Available at: Most major pharmacies

The biggest difference with this kit is that the buffer solution comes in a separate container, and must be transferred into a dropper tube before use. The instructions also specify that the swab stick must be broken at the break line and left inside the tube before sealing and dripping the solution onto the test device.

Our review:

The Abbott PanBio test is great for home use. The separate packaging for the buffer liquid keeps things very hygienic, and the steps are clear and easy to follow. However, the packaging is stiff and not the easiest to use. I find the process more finicky and messier, which could make them more challenging for younger children and those with limited mobility to use.

Quidel QuickVue At-Home OTC Covid-19 Test


ST PHOTO: HILLARY TAN

Wait time for results: 10 minutes
Number of rotations in each nostril: At least four
Available at: Most major pharmacies

After swabbing, the user is required to leave the swab stick in the solution for a minute. Unlike other kits on the market, this one does not require the user to drip the solution onto a test device; instead the device is put into the solution.

The results are also read differently. While most kits reflect a positive result by having two visible pink lines, this one displays a pink line close to the blue control line to indicate a positive result. This kit is also the fastest in producing the result, at just 10 minutes.

Our Review:

This was my favourite kit. I preferred inserting the test device into a bottle to having to drip the sample onto a test device, as it reduces margin of error, and I am less likely to create a mess. Plus, a result displayed with two differently coloured lines is less ambiguous, and easier to explain to children and the elderly. One gripe? I do wish the test strip was less flimsy.

SD Biosensor SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Self-Test Nasal


ST PHOTO: HILLARY TAN

Wait time for results: 15 minutes
Number of rotations in each nostril: Four
Available at: Selected pharmacies

The kits by SD Biosensor are the most compact.

They include a desiccant package within the same pouch. If its beads are yellow, the kit is usable, but green beads indicate that the test is no longer valid.

Our Review:

Having the desiccant package gave me peace of mind, knowing for sure that the test kit was valid. The kit was simple to use and instructions were clear. Most importantly, this kit only required four rotations in each nostril, keeping the process quick and reducing the discomfort.

SD Biosensor Standard Q Covid-19 Ag Home Test


ST PHOTO: HILLARY TAN

Wait time for results: 15 minutes
Number of rotations in each nostril: 10
Available at: Most major pharmacies

This kit also includes the desiccant package within the same pouch as the test device to reflect if the kit is valid for use. Out of all the kits we tested, this one required the most number of rotations in each nostril.

Our Review:

This kit was the easiest to acquire, and was easy to use. However, given that most of the other kits only required four or five rotations per nostril, I found this one, which requires 10, to be slightly more uncomfortable.

BD Kit for Rapid Detection of Sars-CoV-2


ST PHOTO: HILLARY TAN

Wait time for results: 15 minutes
Number of rotations in each nostril: Five
Availability: Given out in schools; currently not available over the counter

The packaging is the most integrated and easiest to keep organised, with the dropper nozzle already attached on the side of the sample collection tube. Instructions are in the four major languages: English, Malay, Tamil and Chinese.

The main difference in the testing process for this kit is that the swab must be left in each nostril for an extra five seconds, on top of the five rotations.

BD has an identical test kit, packaged differently for retail, on The Health Sciences Authority’s (HSA) list. The BD Veritor At-Home Covid-19 Test, however, is currently not circulated in Singapore.

Our Review:

I thought this kit was the most portable and easy to keep organised . The attached dropper cap prevented me from losing parts of the kit and the larger test device felt sturdier than the others.

That said, I did not enjoy having to keep the swab in my nostril for an additional five seconds after rotating it – it made my eyes water a bit more than with the other kits.

More on this topic

After trying all the kits approved for use in Singapore, I would definitely use any of them again, and will do so regularly to ensure my health and safety. Overall, they were generally very similar, and all were fairly easy to use.

Should you test positive or invalid on an ART test twice, take a photograph of your test results with your identification document in the same photo. You can then dispose of the test kit.

Call your nearest Swab and Send Home (Sash) clinic to make an appointment for a confirmatory polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, and bring this photo along.

Do not take public transport there or back. For more information, visit the Ministry of Health’s FAQ page.

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