Covid-19 tests to be cheaper, faster thanks to a WHO deal

A man undergoes Covid-19 test in Namanga.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Limited testing and delayed results have been major bottlenecks in the country’s fight against the disease.
  • A test will only cost Sh500 as opposed to the Sh1,000 that is currently charged in public hospitals.
  • The Health ministry has not been able carry out optimal testing for lack of reagents.

It will soon be cheaper and faster to test Covid-19 in Kenya, thanks to an initiative targeting low and middle-income countries.

Limited testing and delayed results have been major bottlenecks in the country’s fight against the disease and the programme announced by the World Health Organisation (WHO) is likely to be a game-changer.  

It will, for instance, take between 15 minutes and 30 minutes for people to get their results, and a test will only cost Sh500 as opposed to the Sh1,000 that is currently charged in public health facilities and between Sh5,000 and Sh10, 000 in private health facilities.

On Monday, the WHO launched 120 million low-cost rapid testing kits in a deal made possible courtesy of the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator Programme signed between manufacturers and financiers.

The Health ministry has not been able carry out optimal testing for lack of reagents, with tests standing at slightly over 500,000 against a population of over 47 million. The long turnaround time for the tests has also helped fuel the spread of the virus.

“The tests are a critical tool for governments as they look to reopen economies and ultimately save both lives and livelihoods,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The project will last six months, according to agreements between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and producers Abbott and SD Biosensor. Kenya and other African nations will get the kits through the Unitaid and the Africa CDC, which will first roll out the tests in up to 20 countries before the end of the week.


bmutanu@ke.nationmedia.com