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Rapid Covid-19 tests to be rolled out worldwide in low and middle-income countries

The WHO said the tests “will enable expansion of testing, particularly in countries that do not have extensive laboratory facilities or trained health workers.”

Antigen tests are similar in appearance to pregnancy tests.
Antigen tests are similar in appearance to pregnancy tests.
Image: Shutterstock.com

A RAPID COVID-19 test that shows on-the-spot results in 15 to 30 minutes is to be rolled out worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced today. 

The WHO said that 120 million affordable, quality Covid-19 rapid tests for low and middle-income countries have been developed by two companies and will be available for $5 (€4.30) or less. 

One test has received emergency approval from the WHO and the other is expected to receive approval soon. 

The WHO said the tests “will enable expansion of testing, particularly in countries that do not have extensive laboratory facilities or trained health workers.”

The tests, which were developed by Abbott and SD Biosensor, are portable, reliable and easy to administer, according to the WHO. It said the tests are faster and cheaper than laboratory-based tests.

The development of the tests is the latest move from the Access to Covid-19 Tools initiative (ACT accelerator), which was launched in March by the WHO, the European Commission and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of WHO, said today: “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.

“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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Dr Catharina Boehme, Chief Executive Officer of non-profit Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), said: “With this Ag RDT package, the ACT-Accelerator partners have secured much-needed tools for LMICs to dramatically increase Covid-19 testing.

“With the financial support of several countries, we’ve made great progress, but to ensure we reach all those who need testing and bring the prices down, we urgently need substantial funding from public, philanthropic, and multilateral sources.”

Rapid antigen tests are available for sale online but these are the first to meet the WHO’s specifications. 

The Global Fund has committed an initial $50 million (€42.8 million) to enable countries to purchase these tests with the first orders expected to be placed next week. 

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