Geneva: At least 120 million affordable, high-quality rapid Covid-19 tests will be rolled out for low and middle-income countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in an announcement.
According to a statement issued on Monday, the organisations involved in agreement include the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), Global Fund, Unitaid, and the WHO.
The WHO and the leading partners will ahead with the project despite it not being fully funded yet.
"As part of this comprehensive, end-to-end effort, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has executed separate volume guarantee agreements with rapid diagnostic test (RDT) producers Abbott and SD Biosensor.
"These two arrangements will make available to LMICs 120 million antigen rapid diagnostic tests (Ag RDTs) over a period of six months," the WHO statement said.
It further said that these tests provide results in 15-30 minutes, rather than hours or days, and will enable expansion of testing, particularly in countries that do not have extensive laboratory facilities or trained health workers to implement molecular (polymerase-chain reaction or PCR) tests.
An emergency-use listing was issued by the WHO last week for the antigen-based rapid Covid-19 diagnostic tests which cost $5 each.
"High-quality rapid tests show us where the virus is hiding, which is key to quickly tracing and isolating contacts and breaking the chains of transmission," Monday's statement quoted WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as saying.
"The tests are a critical tool for governments as they look to reopen economies and ultimately save both lives and livelihoods."
As of Tuesday, the overall number of global coronavirus stood at 33,273,720 million, while the deaths have increased to 1,000,825, according to the Johns Hopkins University.