Millions of new, antigen-based rapid diagnostic test kits for the novel coronavirus have been approved for use by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and set for roll out in various African countries to boost the capacity of Covid-19 testing
The new, cheaper, less fragile tests could help health systems identify and treat cases more quickly, said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s Regional Director for Africa.
She noted that 20 million antigen tests are being distributed to Africa’s low and middle income countries.
Dr Moeti made these remarks during a virtual press conference today facilitated by APO Group in which she was joined by Dr Abdoulaye Toure, Director-General of the National Institute of Public Health, Guinea; and Dr Susan Ndidde Nabadda, Head of the Ugandan National Health Laboratory Services and Central Public Health Laboratory.
“The new rapid tests are easy to use, cheaper than polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, tests, and provide the results in under 30 min, enabling countries to decentralize testing and speed-up the turnaround time for results to quickly reach, identify, test and isolate,” she said.
She also pointed out that most African countries are focused on testing travellers, patients or contacts and this means that a significant number of cases are still missed.
“With rapid testing, authorities can stay a step ahead of COVID19 by scaling up active case finding. African countries are gearing up to introduce antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests on a large scale and this will be a game changer in our fight against COVID19. These high-quality rapid tests will help meet the huge unmet testing needs in Africa,” she added.
Dr. Moeti also revealed that WHO is working hand-in-hand with countries by sending out key policy and operational guidance documents, developing a training package, and deploying experts in the field to support the roll out of these tests.
Currently, there are over 1.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases on the African continent, with more than 1.3 million recoveries & 40,000 deaths according to WHO.