120 Mn COVID-19 rapid tests at $5 to be given to underprivileged nations: WHO

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that 120 million COVID-19 rapid diagnostic tests are expected to be delivered to low- and middle-income countries at maximum pricing of $5 each. 

The global organization updated that providing these quick, reliable and inexpensive testing kits will help 133 countries to tackle the pandemic and close the gap with wealthy ones.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO shared that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have potentially agreed on a contract with manufacturers SD Biosensor and Abbott to “make 120 million of these new, highly portable and easy-to-use rapid COVID-19 diagnostic tests available over a period of six months” further adding that these tests were currently priced at a maximum of $5 each but were expected to become cheaper.

“This will enable the expansion of testing, particularly in hard-to-reach areas that do not have laboratory facilities or enough trained health workers to carry out tests,” the WHO chief answered.

“This is a vital addition to the testing capacity and especially important in areas of high transmission.”

Catharina Boehme, chief executive officer of the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), a Geneva-based non-profit organization in the project remarked the deal as a “major milestone” citing the need of urgency to increase testing in poorer countries.

“It is our first line of defense, critical for countries to track, trace and isolate to stop the spread of the virus and to ensure that we are not flying blind,” the CEO added.

“We now have two high-quality tests which are the first in a series that are being developed and assessed by WHO for emergency use listing,” Ms. Boehme said. She informed that antigen tests, which don’t require a laboratory can provide reliable results in just 15 minutes rather than hours or days and will help expand testing adding that “The tests are as simple to use as pregnancy tests.”

Another Geneva-based group, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is expected to contribute an initial $50 million to the procurement fund with first orders expected to be placed this week.