Lateral flow tests (LFT) are the new weapon against Covid-19. This is especially true in the fight against against Omicron, the most contagious variant thus far.
Although vaccines are still the best health measure against the virus, countries are now relying on rapid antigen at home testing to protect their citizens and economies.
Nonetheless, accessibility to this new basic needs product is utterly dependent upon the country.
What is a Lateral Flow Test or Rapid Antigen Test?
There are several types of lateral flow tests but most of them involve taking a sample from your nose, and sometimes from both your throat and nose, using a swab.
Results will appear in 10-30 minutes depending on the test used. As Omicron becomes the main cause of Covid-cases, countries’ reliance on these tests has increased.
A study from Denmark found that Omicron is 2.7-3.7 times more infectious that the Delta variant in vaccinated people.
Countries with Free LFT
Certain European countries such as Germany and the UK enjoy the consumption of this good for free.
The former reintroduced free Covid tests in November as Omicron’s cases started to rise exponentially. Now, cities including Berlin offer a free test a day.
The UK carries out more Covid-19 tests due to their accessibility. Citizens can obtain free LFTs in pharmacies, supermarkets, and other local collection points including libraries.
They can also be ordered online, taking 1-2 days to arrive.
Countries with Prices Between 2-6$
Though not for free, other countries – mainly within Europe – provide rapid antigen tests at an affordable price. This is the case in Portugal, where the price of a LFT ranges between 2.25-5.63$ and in France, where 5 tests can be bought for 28.15$ (5.63$ each).
Similarly, in Romania prices range between 3.38-5.63$, and in the Netherlands between 2.25- 5.64$. In Spain, the government has been charging 3.32$ per LFT since they imposed a price ceiling on the product in January 2022.
Argentina is another non-European country offering LFTs within this price range – pharmacies and drug stores charging 4-6$. Whereas the ministry does consider these tests a weapon to tackle the pandemic, they consider their result indicative.
On the other hand, Peru charges between 5.22-11.23$ for a LFT, which can be purchased in pharmacies such as Mifarma or Inkafarma.
Looking at the Asian continent, Singapore’s government offers free rapid antigen tests via mail to their citizens when cases are on the rise. For instance, in October and December 2021 the government gave 10 LFT for free to all households.
Otherwise, Singaporean retailers sell LFTs at 5$ each. In the case of Malaysia, LFTs are sold at pharmacies and they have a capped price imposed by the government of 6$, though they are often sold at cheaper prices.
Countries with a Price Between 10-40
In the US the price of LFTs rests between 10 and 15$. The tests are available at pharmacies and also online.
Nevertheless, due to supplies dwindling, pharmacies such as CVS limited the number of test citizens can purchase. To mitigate this situation, the Biden Administration has been distributing free LFTs since January 19th. Every home can order 4 free at home Covid tests, with orders taking between 7 to 12 days.
Despite being available for purchase in several locations – including petrol stations, tobacconists, convenience stores and pharmacies – rapid antigen tests are scarce in Australia, with prices ranging between 10-15$.
Nonetheless, on occasion citizens have been charged up to 40$ a pop. The country is facing its most widespread infection and Australians demand cheaper prices by highlighting the big difference in their prices and those of European countries. However, the government has already opposed the idea of making them free. Instead, it wishes to leaves things to the private market.
Although Israel has shifted towards a LFT strategy due to shortages of PCR, the price is not affordable for all its citizens. The prices range between 11$ to 32$. The Prime Minister in January stated that the government would give free rapid antigen tests to students and teaching staff.
It is also considering establishing price caps as other countries have done to make them more accessible.
While we have seen a great disparity in the prices of LFTs, they have been more or less accessible for the global population to purchase.
However, it is worth mentioning that not all countries have an easy access to this “weapon”. African countries such as Uganda or Senegal are trying to develop their own Covid tests. Their attempts to import them having been frustrated by richer countries bidding higher.
Whereas the whole world is suffering the impact of Covid-19, not all countries have the same resources to fight it. As we live in an interconnected and globalized world, this might become the biggest obstacle.