Chief Medical Officer Walter Busuttil has ruled out making self-testing kits for COVID-19 legal, citing concerns about their accuracy when compared to tests carried out at authorised testing centres. 

His comments come amid reports of delays in appointments for PCR tests for those with COVID-19 symptoms. 

"Different countries are taking different decisions on this issue [the use of self-tests]. So far, the decision is that we do not move towards allowing self-testing. 

"The disadvantage is that there are some who take matters into their own hands and make their own decision on things without medical advice. We also know that self-testing kits are not 100 per cent accurate," Busuttil said.

Busuttil made the comments during an interview on TVM, during which he gave an overview of the island's current COVID-19 situation. 

Kits available locally, despite law

Self-testing kits are used extensively abroad as part of efforts to get as many people tested as possible. Across Europe, their widespread use has resulted in shortages, with people queueing for hours to get their hands on them.

The kits are illegal in Malta and cannot be sold or purchased. 

However, they are readily available for sale locally. Times of Malta was able to source a pack of 25 self-testing kits for €175 from one local retailer.  

According to Busuttil, the tests are most useful when carried out repeatedly over a number of days. 

"One test does not necessarily give you an accurate result and the kits' biggest value is when it is repeated over and over. But so far, our decision is that we will not go there just yet," Busuttil insisted. 

Acknowledging delays in the government's testing as a result of the rapid spike in new infections, Busuttil said people are not turning to the private sector when they require tests to travel and this was helping alleviate the pressure off the public health's testing capabilities. 

What is a self-testing kit?

Self-testing kits, also referred to as home testing kits, involve the use of swabs and a special solution in which the sample is drenched. The solution is then dripped onto a strip (similar to pregnancy tests) that then provides a result within a few minutes. 

Some tests require swabs from both the nostrils and the mouth while others just require swabs from either of the two.

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