Ministry of Health forbids at home rapid tests for COVID-19

A healthcare worker administering a COVID-19 PCR test. (File photo: Ameer Khalifeh/Jordan News)
AMMAN — The Ministry of Health will not allow pharmacists or citizens to conduct rapid COVID-19 tests, also known as rapid lateral flow tests (LFTs), to ensure that infection cases of the coronavirus and its variants are monitored and counted across the Kingdom, according to a statement by the prime minister’s adviser for Health Affairs, Adel Balbisi, to Al-Ghad News. اضافة اعلان

Balbisi explained that the ministry has taken this stance on rapid testing at home as a means of ensuring that data remains accurate as some citizens may not report their infection. 

“The National Epidemiological Committee has downplayed the fears surrounding the use of rapid COVID-19 testing, arguing that counting the numbers will not be an obstacle for the Ministry of Health. We trust our citizens to report their infection,” the committee stated.

The LFT kit contains a disposable swab, test cassette, waste bag, and an extraction buffer tube.
A nasopharyngeal sample is positioned on a small pad that is absorbent, and then is drawn along the pad through a capillary line to a strip that is coated in antibodies, which in turn binds to SARS-Cov-2 proteins. The presence of proteins will yield a colored line, which conveys that the patient is infected with COVID-19. They can cost anywhere between JD7–10.

Compared to LFT, PCR tests can detect COVID-19 earlier and can detect infection for several days after the infectious period with more accuracy.

Head of the Jordan Pharmacists Association Zeid Kilani told Jordan News, the association has been communicating with the ministry for months, requesting that they allow the use of LFTs in homes and other places, including pharmacies. “Our requests have been denied by the ministry, multiple times at this point. The use of LFTs is by no means a rarity, because many other countries allow it. Additionally, after someone conducts an LFT, they can confirm their test result by referring to laboratories for further analysis.”

According to Kilani, the ministry has allowed utilizing LFTs only in certain institutions, like hospitals, medical clinics, and some other businesses. However, the ministry has not allowed pharmacies to sell LFTs to citizens yet and has discouraged citizens from using the kit at home.

The Jordan Pharmacists Association will continue to negotiate with the ministry in the coming weeks, aiming to have them reevaluate their stance on LFTs, Kilani noted. “Some countries apply LFTs in their airports. We hope that the ministry rethinks its position. We will keep on asking them until they hopefully change their position on this issue.”

Professor of Microbiology Ammar Almaayatah told Jordan News that some countries allow ordering LFTs for free, like the UK. “However, the effectiveness of LFTs depends mostly on the quality of the specific LFT product,” he said.

This does not mean that LFTs are completely useless, Almaaytah said, “because they can still detect infection in the case of high viral load. Rapid tests can also be useful in the case of mass infections, as seen in the UK, because they ease the pressure on laboratories.”

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