WHO to offer 120 million low-cost tests to poor countries

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The Director-General of WHO (World Health Organization), Tedros Adhanom, today announced an agreement, in partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, that will allow the acquisition of 120 million rapid tests to diagnose the presence of the new coronavirus in people 133 low and middle income countries. The organization, however, did not specify whether Brazil is included in the list, as well as other Latin American countries.

According to Adhanom, the tests will reach the “most remote areas” of the poorest countries in the world for the value of US $ 5 (about R $ 28) a unit and will be available to 20 African countries as of October. The tests used will be those of antigens, those able to identify the proteins of the new coronavirus, with results that take 15 to 30 minutes.

The entity highlighted that they will be used to respond to suspected outbreaks in remote locations, to investigate groups in which outbreaks are suspected, to test populations that are most exposed to the virus, and also to test in locations with widespread community transmission.

Data presented today at the WHO conference show that while high-income countries carry out 292 tests for every 100 thousand inhabitants, middle, low and very low income countries carry out, respectively, only 77, 61 and 14 tests for every 100 thousand inhabitants.

According to Maria van Kerkhove, the technical leader for WHO covid-19, antigen testing generally works best on patients who have a high viral load in the body, between 2 days before the onset of symptoms until 5 to 7 days after their presentation.

“Many countries do not have access to a rapid result of samples of PCR [que detectam o material genético do vírus em uma amostra]. The samples need to be taken to a laboratory, and it can take hours or days to arrive. Antigen tests can be very useful, and are done at the bedside [do paciente]”explained Kerkhove.

The WHO leader noted that since the beginning of the pandemic, the organization has emphasized the vital importance of testing as part of a comprehensive strategy to control transmission and that the program to accelerate the development of a vaccine for the disease has raised more than $ 35 millions. “This represents a small amount for countries in the context of the trillions of dollars they are spending on stimuli to keep economies running,” he said.

Over 1 million deaths

The world today has reached the negative mark of 1 million deaths related to the new coronavirus and the head of the WHO Emergency Program, Mike Ryan, believes that this number may be even higher. “We work to make sure the records are right. I can say that an accident, for example, is not categorized as death by covid-19. The numbers, in fact, can be underestimated, given the difficulty of doing the testing”, said.

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