It is urgent that Anvisa (National Health Surveillance Agency) regulate the Covid self-test without wasting time — and that the strategy be used as a public policy within the scope of SUS.
Focused on clinics, pharmacies and the public sector, testing in Brazil is failing to meet the growing demand due to the circulation of the Ômicron variant. There are reports of waiting lines for hours and difficulty in scheduling tests at the recommended interval for virus detection.
The use of self-tests to control the pandemic is already practical in the US and UK. In the first, citizens will be able to order free devices over the internet starting next week; in the second, users report results via a barcode on an NHS system (the local SUS).
The British strategy overturns the possible argument that the self-test in Brazil could harm the monitoring of the disease, which operates with difficulties (the collection of official data has been compromised for more than a month due to a hacker attack).
For it to work, however, the government needs to develop a system in which the population reports their tests.
Massive and free distribution of self-tests is also necessary so that they do not benefit only part of the elite — a low-effect collective health practice.
There is still an imbroglio in an anachronistic resolution by Anvisa. The current definition, prior to Covid-19, is that tests for communicable diseases are carried out exclusively in laboratories.
The exceptional nature of the pandemic has already led to the approval of this type of testing in pharmacies in 2020.
Now, a public policy is needed to release the exams in the home environment as well.
The Ministry of Health is right by highlighting self-testing as an additional strategy to prevent and interrupt the transmission of Covid-19 alongside vaccination, the use of masks and distancing.
The folder is wrong, however, when signaling that the government of Jair Bolsonaro (PL) does not intend to distribute the self-tests through SUS, restricting it to commercial use.
Scientists and trade associations have defended the need to improve the national testing plan as an extremely urgent measure, including allowing self-tests. On the same side, the Brazilian industry says it would deliver up to 10 million testing devices per month.
It now remains for Health to make this strategy viable as a public policy accessible to all — and it is up to state and municipal governments, as well as SUS actors and civil society, to press for this to happen.