Rapid coronavirus tests that can provide results in about 15 to 30 minutes are expected to be rolled out to lower and middle-income countries around the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday announced an agreement between the health agency, test manufacturers and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to make 120 million of the highly portable and easy-to-use rapid diagnostic tests available around the world over a period of six months.
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Tedros said the rapid antigen tests are currently priced at a maximum of $5 each but were expected to become less expensive.
“I’m pleased to announce that thanks to an agreement between WHO, partners here today and others, a substantial proportion of these rapid #COVID19 tests – 120 million – will be made available to low- and middle-income countries”-@DrTedros #ACTogether
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) September 28, 2020
“This will enable the expansion of testing, particularly in hard-to-reach areas that do not have lab facilities or enough trained health workers to carry out PCR [polymerase chain reaction] tests,” Tedros said during a news conference in Geneva Monday.
“This is a vital addition to their testing capacity and is especially important in areas of high transmission,” he said. “The quicker COVID-19 can be diagnosed, the quicker action can be taken to treat and isolate those with the virus and trace their contacts.”
Tedros noted the WHO is still seeking to raise the necessary funds to purchase all of the tests.
“We have an agreement, we have seed funding and now we need the full amount of funds to buy these tests,” he said.
The rapid tests are generally considered less accurate than PCR tests that require processing with specialty lab equipment and take several days to deliver results.
Rapid antigen test now approved by @WHO & set for delivery to low/middle income countries gives results in 15 min, works best when individual has high viral load and likely to be in the more contagious phase of infection. Need to ramp this up so everyone can be tested regularly. pic.twitter.com/OZAp7Iw9j2
— Dr. Ali Nouri (@AliNouriPhD) September 28, 2020
One of the tests from South Korean manufacturer SD BioSensor was given emergency approval by the WHO last week, while a test manufactured by Abbott is expected to soon receive approval, according to The Guardian.
The announcement from the WHO comes as the global death count is on the brink of reaching 1 million with more than 33 million confirmed cases.
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