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India unveils Covid home test kit to ease overburdened hospitals

Doctor Vikas Ghattargi, scientific officer research and development (R&D), shows a Covid-19 coronavirus CoviSelf Rapid Antigen Test self-kit, at the Mylab Discovery Solutions manufacturing facility in Lonavla, some 90 km south-east of Mumbai on June 10, 2021. Photo: AFP

First-of-its kind home test kit in the world’s second-most populous nation hoped to ease pressure on health system amid deadly second wave of infections

A new inexpensive test for Covid has been deployed in India, with the hope it will relieve pressure on the nation’s beleaguered health system.

Start-up Mylab Discovery Solutions’ home test kit CoviSelf is the country’s first and is released as the world’s second-most populous nation slowly emerges from a devastating second wave of infections.

Almost 30 million of the country’s 1.3 billion have been infected so far, leaving more than 350,000 dead. 

But many experts suspect that the real numbers are much higher, blaming insufficient testing and inaccurate recording of the cause of patient deaths. 

The start-up, which also makes PCR tests to detect HIV infections, says that widespread access to CoviSelf – sold for 250 rupees ($3.40) – would reduce pressure on overburdened laboratories and improve infection tracking. 

The kit uses a nasal swab and a QR code to connect to a mobile app, which reveals results in 15 minutes, and sends the details to the Indian Council for Medical Research, the scientific agency leading the government’s response. 

“It has been designed so people can do it at home. So the contents of the kit are simple, the way to dispose of it is simple, the way to perform it is simple,” said Shrikant Pawar, Head of Serology & Microbiome at Mylab. 

At the firm’s factory in the hillside resort town of Lonavla in western India, masked and gloved workers ran detailed quality checks on the kit’s components before shipping them out to pharmacies across the country. 

“Our current production capacity is 10 million tests in a week”, Pawar told AFP, with the kit also sold on Flipkart, a Walmart-backed online behemoth. 

“If the market demand goes high, we will be able to cater to more tests a week and yes, we are also planning to go overseas, so it will be available in international markets as well.” 

But with the kit only accessible to smartphone users, its impact may be limited, especially as the pandemic makes deeper forays into rural India, where mobile networks are weak and internet penetration remains low. 

  • Reporting by AFP 

Mark McCord

Mark McCord is a financial journalist with more than three decades experience writing and editing at global news wires including Bloomberg and AFP, as well as daily newspapers in Hong Kong, Sydney and Melbourne. He has covered some of the biggest breaking news events in recent years including the Enron scandal, the New York terrorist attacks and the Iraq War. He is based in the UK. You can tweet to Mark at @MarkMcC64371550.


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