WHO, partners roll out faster COVID tests for poorer nations

“We have an agreement, we have seed funding and now we need the full amount of funds to buy these tests,” he said, without specifying.

Dr. Catharina Boehme, chief executive of a non-profit group called the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, said the rollout would be in 20 countries in Africa, and would rely on support of groups including the Clinton Health Initiative. She said the diagnostic tests will be provided by SD Biosensor and Abbott.

Peter Sands, the executive director of the Global Fund, a partnership that works to end epidemics, said it would make an initial $50 million available from its COVID-19 response mechanism. He said the deployment of the quality antigen rapid diagnostic tests will be a “significant step” to help contain and combat the coronavirus.

“They’re not a silver bullet, but hugely valuable as a complement to PCR tests, since although they are less accurate, they’re much faster, cheaper and don’t require a lab,” he said.

Many rich countries have also faced problems rolling out accurate tests, and testing itself is no panacea — countries like France and the United States have all faced backlogs and hiccups at times, and rapid tests in Britain and Spain turned out to be inaccurate.

But rolling out testing in poorer countries aims to help health care workers get a better grip on where the virus is circulating, in hopes of following up with containment and other measures to stop it.

Sands said high-income countries are currently carrying out 292 tests per day per 100,000 people — while the lowest-income countries were conducting 14 per 100,000 people.

He said the 120 million tests would represent a “massive increase” in testing, but were still a fraction of what is needed in those countries.

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