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EU to purchase over 20 million coronavirus rapid tests

A rapid antigen test for Covid-19. Credit: Belga

More than 20 million rapid coronavirus tests will be purchased for the EU, with the tests being made available by early 2021, the European Commission announced on Friday.

The announcement follows a request from the European Council, which on 11 December asked the Commission to “present a proposal for a Council recommendation on a common framework for rapid antigen tests and for the mutual recognition of test results.”

“Rapid antigen tests offer us speed, reliability and quick responses to isolate Covid cases. This is crucial to slow down the spread of the pandemic,” said Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, in a press release.

The Commission sees the use of rapid tests as “increasingly advisable” as the more reliable PCR tests face shortages, are relatively pricey and take a long time to yield results, it explained in the press release.

The use of the tests is recommended in particular for diagnosis among symptomatic cases, contacts of confirmed cases, outbreak clusters, screening in high-risk areas and closed settings, the Commission said.

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The European Commission has also signed agreements with various pharmaceutical companies for deliveries of vaccines.

While none have been approved yet, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is set to meet on 21 January to decide on the authorisation of the Pfizer – BioNTech vaccine, which has already received approval for emergency use in the UK and the United States.

If the Pfizer vaccine gets the green light, the EU aims to start rolling out the vaccine from 27 December. However, “testing will remain fundamental in the coming months,” Kyriakides warned.

Jason Spinks
The Brussels Times