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Decline in Covid home test sales raises questions about continued use

As major Finnish retailers report a staggering 90 percent drop in the sale of home test kits compared to the previous year, concerns arise over the reliability and necessity of these tests.

An at-home test kit for Covid-19.
Sales of at-home test kits plummeted according to major Finnish retailers. Image: JYPIX/Alamy/All Over Press
Yle News

The coronavirus no longer dominates the headlines and the number of official Covid-19 tests being conducted has decreased to a fraction of what it was during the peak of the pandemic.

Sales of home test kits have also plummeted compared to last year, according to Kesko and S Group, the two major players in the Finnish grocery retail sector.

In the first three months of this year, both K and S groups sold 90 percent fewer home test kits than during the same period last year.

"Last year was a peak year for Covid-19 tests due to improved availability and high demand: sales were over 2,500 percent higher than in 2021," said Tuuli Luoma, Director of Kesko's own branded products.

The sales of Covid-19 tests in Kesko's stores have slightly increased this year as summer approaches. Demand has varied depending on the viral situation, and there was an increase in Covid infections this spring.

S Group's Sales Concept Development Manager Venla Kuoppamäki explained that at-home Covid-19 tests were only made available on store shelves in May 2021, so a direct comparison with sales from two years ago cannot be made.

To test or not to test?

The current situation leaves a bit of uncertainty regarding whether or not individuals should test themselves, and under what circumstances they should do so.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL) emphasised that there are no specific recommendations for home testing for Covid-19 and anyone can choose to do a home test if they wish.

In mild respiratory infections, the cause is most often unidentified. However, if a person is searching for the cause of their ailment, THL said they can certainly do a home test for Covid-19.

THL also noted that current strains of coronavirus can be reliably detected by home tests, just like previous variants. The reliability of testing depends on successful sample collection, timing, and the viral load present in the respiratory tract. The reliability of home testing can be increased by repeating the test every couple of days.

THL added that the importance of Covid-19 testing has decreased because a large portion of cases are either asymptomatic or mild infections that can be managed at home.

However, testing still has its place, the health organisation pointed out. This is especially relevant in identifying infections in high-risk groups or when Covid-19 is suspected in patients requiring hospitalisation. A positive test result for someone in a high-risk group can guide the consideration of Covid-19 treatment.

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