The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on September 28 that, together with partners, it plans to roll out as many as 120 million rapid-diagnostic tests for COVID-19 in order to help lower and middle-income countries in making up the testing gap with richer countries.
These rapid tests are generally considered less accurate than the higher-grade genetic tests called PCR tests. The rapid tests however are much faster to give results as they look for antigens, or proteins found on the surface of the virus.
The new test that WHO plans will cost USD 5 apiece and is an antigen-based rapid diagnostic test. The program is not fully funded yet, with an initial requirement of about USD 600 million by next month.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hailed the program as “good news” in the fight against the novel coronavirus.
“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 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 tests.”
“We have an agreement, we have seed funding and now we need the full amount of funds to buy these tests,” he added.