The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Monday that it has reached an agreement with its partners to make some 120 million COVID-19 rapid tests available to low- and middle-income countries around the world.
These tests will provide reliable results in about 15-30 minutes rather than hours or days, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a joint press briefing with partner organizations, such as the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, the Global Fund, UNITAID and the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
“Last week we reached an important milestone, in which WHO issued the first Emergency Use Listing for a quality antigen-based rapid diagnostic test and we expect other rapid tests to follow. Today, I have good news. I’m pleased to announce that thanks to an agreement between WHO and partners here today and others, a substantial proportion of these rapid tests – 120 million – will be made available to low- and middle-income countries. 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.
This project 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 (polymerase chain reaction) tests, which is especially important in areas of high transmission, Tedros said.
According to the WHO, these test kits are currently priced at a maximum of five U.S. dollars per unit, which is already substantially cheaper than the PCR tests.
The WHO said that volume guarantee agreements have been developed between two manufacturers and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which will make 120 million of these new highly portable and easy-to-use rapid diagnostic tests available over a period of six months.
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