Low-income and middle-income countries worldwide suffer from a lack of testing capacity because they do not have enough laboratories and health workers. The new quick test could do something about that. The test – which resembles a pregnancy test – only costs a maximum of 5 dollars (4.3 euros) for poorer countries. By way of comparison: in our country the cost price of a PCR test is about ten times higher. Moreover, with the quick test you can read the result after fifteen minutes – within half an hour at the most -, which is still done by medically trained personnel. Today you have to wait a few days in our country to know whether you are positive or not, partly because the test must first be taken by a professional and then go to the lab.
The WHO praises the “new, extremely portable and easy-to-use test” and speaks of a milestone. Two companies will produce 120 million tests for poorer countries in six months. The test by the South Korean firm SD BioSensor has already been approved by the WHO through an emergency procedure, and that of the American Abbott is expected to follow soon. In poorer countries, health workers die much more often. The rapid tests will allow mass testing of personnel in the health sector.
20 percent of the production of the rapid tests is reserved for low-income and middle-income countries, 80 percent is allowed to go to the rest of the world. The aim is to prevent the wealthier countries from not buying everything first, as was shown with the launch of the PCR test. The initiative of, among others, the WHO, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the European Commission and France was launched in March. Rich countries that then subscribed to this global collaboration platform – named Access to Covid Tools (ACT) Accelerator – can also purchase the quick test. Germany has already ordered 20 million units, France and Switzerland also want the test. It is not yet clear whether Belgium will follow suit.
The PCR test remains much more accurate than the rapid tests, which have a sensitivity between 80 and 90 percent. But the rapid test can be used, for example, for screening in schools, universities and companies. For example, Covid-19 patients can be detected before they have symptoms, and then immediately sent to quarantine to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Rapid tests are already available online, but it is the first time that one has come on the market that meets WHO requirements, concludes The Guardian.
ACT-Accelerator is also committed to buying Covid-19 medications in bulk and distributing them around the world. The same applies to any vaccines, once they have proven their effectiveness.
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