The Portuguese Red Cross (CVP) has offered to distribute a shipment of rapid diagnostic tests for Covid-19 for free for use in schools and homes, but the government has yet to comment on the proposal, the Express reveals this Friday. According to the same newspaper, CVP received international funding to acquire up to half a million rapid tests, capable of diagnosing infection with the novel coronavirus in just 15 minutes. These tests have a sensitivity of 93% and a specificity of 99% and have recently reached the Portuguese market.
The president of the CVP, Francisco George, explains to Expresso that “thanks to a protocol of articulation with the health authorities, it would be possible to begin the diagnoses in September”. “This is the solution to cut the chains of transmission and change the paradigm of public health intervention”, he guarantees, revealing that on Saturday he made a first informal proposal with the Minister of Health, which remained without reply. Francisco George reveals that he again proposed the distribution of rapid tests at the Infarmed meeting this week, and that the Prime Minister acknowledged that it would be “an opportunity for schools”. In Expresso, António Costa’s office only said that “the proposal is still under consideration”.
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Francisco George guarantees that these tests have “nothing to do with the first [análises] coming from China ”and points out that they were accepted by Infarmed last week.
Experts heard by the same journal agree that, until the appearance of a vaccine against covid-19, it is the best strategy, allowing tests “simple, fast and cheap”, and wonder why the government has not yet accepted the proposal. In addition, they point out that the technique allows the detection of infected people within minutes (preventing the virus from continuing to spread), allowing society to approach near normal functioning.
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These rapid tests also use the swab to detect antigen on the surface of the virus, requiring training for the technicians who will perform them, so CVP is developing a training strategy and will also provide a helpline to answer questions.
Two of the main test manufacturers, Roche and Abbott, ensure that a second confirmation of the result is not necessary and the head of the Special Testing Program Covid-19 at CVP points out that the rapid tests already carried out by the organization demonstrate that the technique is effective. “We have already run 100 samples in parallel, doing the rapid test and PCR, and the agreement was complete. We have uses at home, in Valença and Évora, and we managed to get the situation under control in one afternoon, ”he said.
According to Expresso, the tests are now reaching the Portuguese market at a unit price of between five and ten euros and the replacement of the swab with a saliva sample is already under consideration. CVP will also sell the tests to private institutions for a cost of € 20 – a value that includes the nursing services needed to collect the sample.