The World Health Organisation (WHO) is to roll out 120 million rapid-diagnostic coronavirus tests to help lower-income countries make up ground in a testing gap with wealthier nations.
At 5 US Dollars apiece, the program initially requires 600 million Dollars in funding and is expected to commence as early as next month.
The rapid tests are generally considered less accurate — though much faster — than higher-grade genetic tests, known as PCR tests, which are used in many richer countries.
Those tests require processing with specialty lab equipment and chemicals. They typically take several days to deliver results to patients.
On Monday, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hailed the program as “good news” in the fight against COVID-19.
“These tests provide reliable results in approximately fifteen to thirty minutes, rather than hours or days, at a lower price with less sophisticated equipment,” he said.
He added that the new testing would enable the expansion of testing, particularly in hard-to-reach areas that do not have lab facilities or enough trained health workers to conduct PCR tests.
Catharina Boehme, CEO of the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics, said the tests would be rolled out in twenty African countries and would rely on the support of health groups.
She said the diagnostic tests would 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 Dollars available from its COVID-19 response mechanism.