The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has confirmed the authorization of a rapid diagnostic coronavirus test that is expected to produce results in about 45 minutes.
The new tests are being produced by Cepheid, a California-based manufacturing company. Shipping is set to start next week.
The announcement is a major boost for the United States’ war against the coronavirus.
The country’s early efforts to curb the virus were criticized for a sluggish reaction to the crisis which had been first been unfolding in China and then other parts of the world before hitting America.
There was a loss of several weeks of crucial development time after faulty test kits had been produced, with regulatory issues also slowing the process down.
Another major problem which United States health authorities have faced has been a shortage of face masks.
As of Sunday (15H00 GMT), there were 26 747 confirmed cases (as per the John Hopkins University tracker) of the coronavirus COVID-19 in the U.S, and 340 deaths. Only China, Italy and Spain have more confirmed cases.
Which is why the Food and Drug Administration’s authorization of a first rapid diagnostic test is such important news for Americans.
Up until now, tests have generally taken a minimum of a day, and up to four days, to produce results.
The much-more speedy 45-minute tests will help ease the burden on health officials.
“An accurate test delivered close to the patient can be transformative. And help alleviate the pressure that the emergence of the 2019-nCoV outbreak has put on healthcare facilities that need to properly allocate their respiratory isolation resources,” said Dr. David Persing, the chief medical and technology officer at Cepheid.
The faster testing capabilities will also mean that people are placed in quarantine earlier than they might have when they had been having to wait for a day or longer for their results.
Not enough tests for everyone yet
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence stated at a news briefing on Saturday that over 195 000 Americans have been tested to date.
Because of the ongoing shortages of test kits and the pressure which medical staff are under, people will not be encouraged to go in for testing unless they feel there is a reasonable chance they have the coronavirus.
“If you don’t have symptoms, don’t do a test,” Pence said.
The Vice President also said that he and his wife will both take the coronavirus test. This is in response to a staff member from his office having tested positive last week.
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