The World Health Organisation (WHO) has promised to roll out rapid testing for the detection of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Africa, one of the regions least affected by the virus in the world.
The rollout would considerably increase testing capacity and mark a real game changer in the fight against COVID-19 on the continent, WHO said on Thursday at a virtual press conference from its Africa regional headquarters in Brazzaville, Congo.
According to the WHO, many African countries have found it difficult to carry out enough tests to control the pandemic.
“The widespread use of high-quality rapid testing in Africa can revolutionize the continent’s response to COVID-19,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “The new antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests will help meet the huge testing needs in Africa.”
In many African countries, testing is limited to major cities and travellers, and people have to wait between 48 hours and over 10 days for results, according to the WHO.
“Most African countries are focused on testing travellers, patients or contacts, and we estimate that a significant number of cases are still missed,” Dr. Moeti said.
The new rapid tests are easy to use, cheaper than the PCR tests and the results are available in just 15 to 30 minutes, which allows countries to decentralise testing, according to the WHO.
Africa is one of the regions least affected by the pandemic, according to official statistics. On 21 October, WHO tweeted that there were at least 1.6 million reported cases, 1.3 million recoveries and 40,000 deaths in Africa since the start of the pandemic.