World Health Organisation aims to roll out faster Covid tests for poorer nations

28 September 2020, 22:04

Virus Outbreak
Virus Outbreak Italy. Picture: PA

Director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hailed the programme as ‘good news’ in the fight against coronavirus.

The World Health Organisation has announced it and leading partners have agreed to a plan to roll out 120 million rapid-diagnostic tests for coronavirus to help lower and middle-income countries make up ground in a testing gap with richer countries — even if it is not fully funded yet.

The WHO issued an emergency-use listing last week for the antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests which cost 5 dollars (£3.90) each.

The programme initially requires 600 million dollars (£467 million) and is to get started as early as next month to provide better access to areas where it is harder to reach with PCR tests that are often used in wealthier nations.

The rapid tests look for antigens, or proteins found on the surface of the virus. They are generally considered less accurate — though much faster — than higher-grade genetic tests, known as PCR tests.

PCR tests require processing with specialised lab equipment and chemicals. Typically that turnaround takes several days to deliver results to patients.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hailed the programme as “good news” in the fight against Covid-19.

“These tests provide reliable results in approximately 15 to 30 minutes, rather than hours or days, at a lower price with less sophisticated equipment,” he said.

“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 tests.

“We have an agreement, we have seed funding and now we need the full amount of funds to buy these tests.”

Catharina Boehme, chief executive of a non-profit group called the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, said the rollout would be in 20 countries in Africa, and would rely on support of groups including the Clinton Health Access Initiative. She said the diagnostic tests will be provided by SD Biosensor and Abbott.

HEALTH Coronavirus
(PA Graphics)

Peter Sands, executive director of the Global Fund, a partnership that works to end epidemics, said it would make an initial 50 million dollars available from its Covid-19 response mechanism. He said the deployment of the quality antigen rapid diagnostic tests will be a “significant step” to help contain and combat coronavirus.

“They’re not a silver bullet, but hugely valuable as a complement to PCR tests, since although they are less accurate, they’re much faster, cheaper and don’t require a lab,” he said.

Many rich countries have also faced problems rolling out accurate tests, and testing itself is no panacea – countries like France and the US have all faced backlogs and hiccups at times, and rapid tests in the UK and Spain turned out to be inaccurate.

But rolling out testing in poorer countries aims to help health care workers get a better grip on where the virus is circulating, in hopes of following up with containment and other measures to stop it.

Mr Sands said high-income countries are carrying out 292 tests per day per 100,000 people — while the lowest-income countries were conducting 14 per 100,000 people.

He said the 120 million tests would represent a “massive increase” in testing, but are still a fraction of what is needed in those countries.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

Matt Hutchins posted this picture in tribute to Halyna

Devastated husband of Halyna Hutchins pays tribute after she was shot dead on set

Halyna Hutchins died on the set of Rust after being shot

Family of Alec Baldwin share tributes to cinematographer Halyna Hutchins

Armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed and assistant director Dave Halls were named in a search warrant

Alec Baldwin was told loaded prop gun was safe before fatal shooting

Donald Trump launched his social media platform yesterday

Company behind Trump's new social media soars on stock market

Alec Baldwin pictured two weeks ago at a film premiere

'There are no words': Alec Baldwin speaks out after fatally shooting woman on film set

The haka is famously performed by the All Blacks rugby union team

Doing the haka if you're not Māori is 'banned' under UK-NZ trade deal

EasyJet cancelled a flight to Marrakesh on Wednesday

Morocco bans UK flights due to rising Covid cases

Putin will not attend the UK-hosted COP26

Putin snubs COP26: Russian president won’t attend Glasgow climate summit

Sadiq Khan was one of the first leaders in the world to declare a climate emergency

Climate change: Sadiq Khan to be named new chair of C40 cities at COP26

George W Bush pictured with Colin Powell in 2002

Bush and Blair lead tributes to Colin Powell after death aged 84

Earthshot 2021

Revealed: List of winners awarded £1million by Duke of Cambridge for Earthshot Prize 2021

Millionaire Robert Durst is believed to have killed three people.

Millionaire murderer on ventilator with Covid days after sentencing

Former PM Gordon Brown wants to send over a billion vaccines to low-income countries

Gordon Brown calls for emergency vaccine airlift to poorer nations

The US has "no idea" how the Chinese managed to make such progress on hypersonic missiles

China fires hypersonic missile around globe before striking target

A British Airways plane takes off as the resumption of UK – US flights was confirmed

UK – US flights to resume from 8 November after 19-month ban

Officers arrested the suspect after 30 minutes

Norway bow and arrow attack 'appears to be act of terror' as five killed