Amazon limits COVID test kit purchases amid Omicron spike

Amazon is limiting sales of its at-home COVID-19 test kits amid a surge in demand as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus spreads like wildfire across the country.

Coronavirus cases are spiking once again in the US as the highly contagious Omicron strain spreads and has become the dominant COVID-19 variant in the country, accounting for 73 percent of cases. The spike has led to a big demand for home tests ahead of the holidays, as many Americans gather with their families.

There have been reports of long lines at COVID-19 testing sites and pharmacies quickly running out of tests. In response to the surge, Walgreens and CVS said Tuesday that they were limiting the number of at-home tests customers can buy both in-store and online to 10. Walmart recently set a limit of eight kits per online purchase.

Likewise, Amazon said Wednesday it is limiting purchases of its own at-home PCR test kit to 10 units per shopper.

An Amazon spokesperson told CNBC that it is experiencing inventory shortages of some COVID tests due to increased demand. The company added that it is working to secure additional COVID test inventory from its selling partners.

Meanwhile, tests available from other vendors on Amazon’s marketplace were also capped. The top-selling at-home COVID test, made by California-based iHealth Labs, was limited to five tests per person.

The Omicron spike has led to a big demand for home tests ahead of the holidays.
Ted Shaffrey/AP
City residents wait in a line.
There have been reports of long lines at COVID-19 testing sites.
Matt Rourke/AP

An Amazon rep told CNBC that it’s up to third-party sellers and vendors to set their own purchase limits. Amazon didn’t respond to questions asking when it began experiencing test shortages.

The scarcity of tests comes as President Biden said Tuesday the government will purchase 500 million at-home tests that Americans can order online for free. However, the administration has yet to sign any contracts to purchase the tests.