Rapid Covid-19 testing cost to be halved in low income countries: Unitaid

Unitaid, a global health initiative that works with partners to bring about innovations to prevent, diagnose and treat major diseases in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), and the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) on Friday announced that they have finalised an agreement to cut in half the costs of antigen-detecting rapid diagnostic tests.

In a media statement released, Unitaid and FIND also declared that they will increase capacity to produce “264 million test kits” during “the coming 12 months”, the Xinhua news agency reported.

The announcement said that the move will bring the price of these tests from $5 to $2.5 each, as well as increase supply of those tests for LMICs.

Describing the move as an important step towards ensuring equitable access to antigen-detecting rapid diagnostic tests for Covid-19, Unitaid spokesman Herve Verhoosel said this initial agreement will increase capacity on the part of the companies involved to supply such tests.

The availability of these tests will be sufficient to meet approximately 50 per cent of the total estimated antigen testing needs of LMICs, he said.

According to Verhoosel, testing has played a critical role since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, enabling patient care as well as providing decision-makers with vital data to inform test-trace-isolate strategies and lockdowns.

While high-income countries are now conducting 252 tests per 1,00,000 people each day, in LMICs the rate is 90 per cent lower, at just 24 tests per 1,00,000 people, he said.