WHO wants 120m rapid virus tests for poorer states

Some 120 million rapid tests for Covid-19 will be made available to poorer countries at $5 each, the World Health Organization announced Monday — if it can find the money.

The WHO said the $600 million scheme would enable low- and middle-income countries to close the dramatic gap in testing for the new coronavirus, which has now killed more than a million people since first being recorded in China in December.

The quick tests, to be distributed across 133 countries over the next six months, are not as reliable as the regular PCR nasal swab tests but are far faster, cheaper and easier to carry out.

“We have an agreement, we have seed funding and now we need the full amount of funds to buy these tests,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual press conference.

Last week, the WHO issued the first emergency-use listing for a quality, antigen-based rapid diagnostic test (RDT), with others expected to follow.

“A substantial proportion of these rapid tests — 120 million — will be made available to low- and middle-income countries,” said Tedros.

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

“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.” (AFP | Robin Millard)

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