WHO to roll out 120M rapid COVID-19 tests for poorer nations

Sept. 29 (UPI) — The World Health Organization announced a deal to supply more than 100 million rapid diagnostic COVID-19 tests to low- and middle-income countries.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced Monday that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and drug manufacturers Abbott and SD Biosensor have inked volume guarantee agreements for 120 million new highly portable diagnostic tests to be made available to poorer nations over a six-month period.

“The quicker COVID-19 can be diagnosed, the quicker action can be taken to treat and isolate those with the virus and trace their contacts,” Tedros said in his opening remarks during a media briefing on the pandemic.

The tests, which cost no more than $5 a unit, provide reliable results within 15 to 30 minutes, representing a significant reduction from hours or days required by less sophisticated equipment, enabling for rapid testing in countries that do not have extensive laboratory facilities or trained healthcare workers, the WHO said in a statement.

Starting next month, global health initiative Unitaid and the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will roll out the test to 20 countries in Africa, the WHO said, adding the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has committed $50 million to enable countries to purchase at least 10 million of the new rapid tests this week.

Peter Sands, executive director of the Global Fund, said the deal made under WHO’s Access to COVID-19 Accelerator program, which was developed for countries to collaboratively create tools to fight the pandemic, is an example of how it best works.

“It is proof that by working together at a massive global scale, we can develop and deploy a vital new tool to help contain and fight the pandemic,” Sands said in a statement. “This is not just a new test — it’s the money and the deployment plan to get it where it’s needed fast. This is the power of global collaboration.”

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