Anvisa, Brazil’s federal health regulator, decided to postpone its decision on whether to allow Brazilians to test themselves at home for Covid-19. Currently, Brazil forbids self-testing for any disease of which cases must be reported to the authorities. Most of the agency’s board voted to give the Health Ministry a 15-day deadline to come up with a formal policy on how they will be used in the country.
Anvisa board members criticized the government for failing to provide information on how patients who discover they have contracted the coronavirus would report their diagnoses to health officials and how tests should be disposed of. Anvisa also wants information on how the government plans to create the conditions for mass testing in the country.
The Brazilian Chamber of Laboratory Diagnosis (CBDL) estimates that kits would cost between BRL 40 and 70 (USD 7 and 13) — which could be prohibitive for poor citizens. In the U.S., the government launched a website on Tuesday through which Americans can request free, at-home tests. In the United Kingdom, citizens are entitled to a limited amount of free lateral flow tests from pharmacies.
The case’s rapporteur within the agency admitted, however, that self-testing kits could be a valuable tool to tame the spread of the Omicron variant. On Tuesday, Brazil registered the highest seven-day average of new daily cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
Self-testing kits could also lift the burden on labs, which have run out of tests or are seeing their stocks dwindle.