The World Health Organisation (WHO) is assessing COVID-19 antigen rapid tests that are supposed to show on-the-spot results in 15 to 30 minutes.
According to the WHO, the tests developed by producers Abbott and SD Biosensor are “highly portable, reliable, and easy to administer, making testing possible in near-person, decentralized healthcare settings.” The South Korean company SD Biosensor has received a temporary license for a rapid test, while the American company Abbott is still awaiting one.
The rapid tests are said to be made available to low and middle-income countries. According to the WHO statement, “These tests provide results in 15–30 minutes, rather than hours or days, and will enable expansion of testing, particularly in countries that do not have extensive laboratory facilities or trained health workers to implement molecular (polymerase-chain reaction or PCR) tests.”
The cost for such a test are supposed to be less than 5 dollars, or approximately 700 Icelandic krónur.
The rapid tests were a point of discussion at a civil defense information meeting this week. According to a report by RÚV, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason said that he finds it interesting that the WHO would recommend the rapid tests. According to him, the reliability of the tests needs to be better researched before discussing whether it is possible to use them in Iceland.
According to the RÚV report, Þórólfur says that the rapid tests may be useful in developing countries, since they do not require expensive equipment or a great deal of expertise and that people may accept less reliability to be able to embark on more widespread screening.
Whether the tests will find implementation in Iceland remains to be seen.
“We have a very good analytical ability here and the method we are using now is the most sensitive and best way available. We would never throw it out without a very careful consideration,” Þórólfur says.
Erna Magnúsdóttir, associate professor of biology and anatomy at the University of Iceland, also told Stöð 2 yesterday that, “These tests are not as sensitive as the ones we are lucky enough to be able to use here on a large scale in Iceland.”
Erna points out that the rapid tests have apparently been tested on people who have shown symptoms but that it’s unclear how reliable they are on asymptomatic infections. She also says that the rapid tests can be crucial in many parts of the world where the screening capacity is not good enough, but with the ever-evolving technology in Iceland and a particularly good infection control team, the current testing process in Iceland is more reliable.
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