New Covid-19 tests can give results in 15 minutes - but will the UK buy any?

Experts hope the rapid tests will stem the tide of infections worldwide (Photo: Shutterstock)Experts hope the rapid tests will stem the tide of infections worldwide (Photo: Shutterstock)
Experts hope the rapid tests will stem the tide of infections worldwide (Photo: Shutterstock)

A total of 120 million rapid coronavirus tests will be distributed to countries around the world as part of a new global initiative in the fight against Covid-19.

The tests, which show results in just 15 to 30 minutes, will be given to low and middle income countries globally at a cost of $5 (around £3.90) each, or even less.

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The aim of the initiative is to slow the acceleration of infections and save potentially thousands of lives worldwide. Health workers in particular will be targeted with the tests, as this group is dying in disproportionate numbers to the rest of the public.

How do the tests work?

The tests look and work much like a pregnancy test, with two blue lines indicating a positive result for coronavirus.

They'll come from two companies, with one test already approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The other test is expected to get approval soon.

Twenty per cent of test production will be made available to low and middle income countries, with 80 per cent earmarked for the rest.

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Wealthy countries who have signed up to the Access to Covid tools initiative (ACT accelerator) will be able to order the tests. Germany has already ordered 20 million.

Will the UK get the tests?

While the UK is signed up to the ACT accelerator, it's not yet clear if the government intends to buy the rapid result tests. It has, however, invested in rapid antigen tests as well as saliva tests, both of which are made in the UK.

The WHO-approved rapid antigen tests are faster, cheaper and easier to administer, however, and could allow a number of infectious people to be isolated before they develop symptoms.

Catharina Boehme, CEO of the non-profit Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (Find), part of the initiative, said they had put in bulk orders for tests quickly in order to ensure low and middle income countries wouldn't lose out in the scramble to procure tests.

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 “We see the pressure of supply building rapidly. That’s why we need this volume guarantee. We needed to secure volumes for low- and middle-income countries, before all the other countries place their orders and the poor populations again lose out", she said.

“For us the message is about unprecedented collaboration. We are really able to show what can be achieved when the world and leading global health partners come together with a shared priority.”