WHO promises 120m rapid coronavirus tests for poorer countries

The World Health Organization announced on Monday that it and leading partners have agreed to a plan to roll out 120m rapid-diagnostic tests for the coronavirus to help lower- and middle-income countries make up ground in a testing gap with richer countries, news wires reported.

At $5 a piece, the antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests for which WHO issued an emergency-use listing last week, the programme initially requires $600m and is to get started as early as next month to provide better access to areas where it’s harder to reach with PCR tests that are used often in many 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. Those tests require processing with specialty 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. “We have an agreement, we have seed funding and now we need the full amount of funds to buy these tests,” he said, without giving details on financing.

More on this subject: Coronavirus

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