Covid test shortage: pharmacies and supermarkets replenish stock after demand skyrockets

Covid test shortage: pharmacies and supermarkets replenish stock after demand skyrockets

Pharmacies and supermarkets across Portugal have started replenishing their supply of rapid antigen tests this week after they almost completely disappeared from shelves due to the country’s new Covid-19 restrictions, which have made negative tests mandatory for most events or for unvaccinated people to go to a restaurant or the gym.

The shortage came down to a “matter of logistics”, said Gonçalo Lobo Xavier from the Portuguese Association of Distribution Companies.

“There is no cause for concern, as we do not have any indication that tests have run out at laboratories (which produce them),” he explained.

Demand for rapid antigen tests has increased exponentially. Last week alone, the Portuguese Association of Pharmaceutical Distributors said it distributed 1.3 million self-tests and 140,000 professional tests (carried out by pharmacists) to national pharmacies.

Lobo Xavier explained that most outlets were “not ready” for the exponential increase in demand, adding that there were establishments that were used to selling 1,000 tests per week and suddenly started selling up to 16,000 per week.

He added that several business owners resorted to supermarkets to buy tests, some purchasing between 50 and 100 tests. The situation led many supermarkets to begin rationing the sale of tests in order to avoid shortages.

Observador newspaper also reported that a sort of ‘black market’ has emerged with several vendors selling self-tests on online website OLX for much higher prices than their market price. One vendor was selling the tests for €6 each, when most of these tests can be purchased for less than €3 or €2 depending on where you buy them.

The spike in demand is evident in light of data revealed this week. Since the start of the pandemic up to Monday, over 22 million tests have been carried out in Portugal – around 15.3 million PCR tests and 6.7 million antigen tests.

According to the country’s Covid-19 testing task force, over 642,000 tests were carried out between December 1 and 6, 416,000 of which were rapid antigen tests carried out by health professionals at pharmacies or laboratories.

There were also five days – November 30 and December 2, 3, 4 and 6 – where over 100,000 tests were carried out in a single day.

According to Portugal’s new Covid-19 measures which came into effect on December 1 as a new ‘State of Calamity’ was announced, negative Covid-19 tests are mandatory for a number of situations.

They must be presented for unvaccinated people to enter restaurants, tourist establishments and AL rental accommodation, events with assigned seating and gyms.

Negative tests are also mandatory (even for vaccinated people) to visit residents at old people’s homes and patients at health establishments or to enter large events with no assigned seating or at improvised venues and sports venues, as well as bars and discos.