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At-home Covid tests sell out in Finland

The demand for home tests is outpacing supply as people stock up before holiday gatherings.

Tyhjä koronaviruksen kotitestihylly kaupassa.
Shoppers in Helsinki on the hunt for at-home tests have found empty shelves. Image: Petteri Bülow / Yle
Yle News

At-home Covid tests are in scarce supply in Finland as grocery stores and pharmacies have underestimated people's interest in self-swabbing ahead of the holidays.

Rapid at-home Covid-19 tests have been difficult to come by in downtown Helsinki. Yle's hunt for the tests this week showed they were sold at Tokmanni, the University Pharmacy, Sokos S-Market, Postitalo's K-Market and Aleksanterinkatu Alepa

Yle did, however, manage to locate a test in a Haaga K-Market, where staff encouraged stocking up, as tests have run out at the K-Group's warehouse.

The Association of Finnish pharmacies previously warned that pharmacies could run out of rapid tests before the year's end in the event of the epidemic surging and the government recommending home testing.

"This week, availability problems materialised. Test distributors are reaching their last bit of inventory," said Charlotta Sandler, Director of Pharmaceutical Affairs at the Association of Finnish Pharmacies.

A Chinese-manufactured Boson-brand test, distributed by Pamark Group, is the most-sold antigen test in Finland.

So far this month, Pamark has imported three million home test kits. The company said it expects to fly in another million tests before the year is over, and that it plans to continue bringing in a million kits weekly in January.

Empty shelves have raised concerns about test hoarding. But Minna Åman-Toivio, who runs Pamark, said the issue is more about logistics than people stashing kits. The journey from the hull of a Finnair plane to a shop shelf is not as straightforward as people may assume, according to Åman-Toivio.

"A huge volume of tests is parcelled into hundreds of smaller deliveries making their way through the logistics chain," she explained, adding that this process includes customs, warehouse transport, loading and unloading as well as repackaging.

Since the pandemic began, S and K Group retailers have sold 430,000 and 220,00 home tests respectively. People have also bought 100,000 tests at pharmacies.

Demand is meanwhile rising. Last week S-Group said it saw a 73 percent increase in sold tests compared to the week prior, and K-Group said tests were leaving stores as soon as they arrived.

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