120 million rapid COVID-19 tests to be rolled out for poorer nations: WHO

Geneva: At least 120 million affordable, high-quality rapid Covid-19 tests will be rolled out for low and middle-income countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in an announcement.

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According to a statement issued on Monday, the organisations involved in agreement include the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), Global Fund, Unitaid, and the WHO.

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The WHO and the leading partners will ahead with the project despite it not being fully funded yet.

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“As part of this comprehensive, end-to-end effort, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has executed separate volume guarantee agreements with rapid diagnostic test (RDT) producers Abbott and SD Biosensor.

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“These two arrangements will make available to LMICs 120 million antigen rapid diagnostic tests (Ag RDTs) over a period of six months,” the WHO statement said.

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It further said that these tests provide results in 15-30 minutes, rather than hours or days, and will enable expansion of testing, particularly in countries that do not have extensive laboratory facilities or trained health workers to implement molecular (polymerase-chain reaction or PCR) tests.

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An emergency-use listing was issued by the WHO last week for the antigen-based rapid Covid-19 diagnostic tests which cost $5 each.

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“High-quality rapid tests show us where the virus is hiding, which is key to quickly tracing and isolating contacts and breaking the chains of transmission,” Monday’s statement quoted WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as saying.

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“The tests are a critical tool for governments as they look to reopen economies and ultimately save both lives and livelihoods.”

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As of Tuesday, the overall number of global coronavirus stood at 33,273,720 million, while the deaths have increased to 1,000,825, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

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