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Rapid coronavirus testing: A game-changer? | Health



Editor’s Note: This series is produced in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO).

Millions of people around the world are being tested for the new coronavirus every day.

There are two main types of testing methods for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease: molecular testing, which detects the presence of the virus itself; and antibody tests, which look for past presence of the virus and a possible immune response to the infection.

To test for the virus itself, the most commonly used method involves a nasal or throat swab. The official name for this is the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). It is a standard molecular testing technique that detects the genetic material of the virus in a respiratory sample obtained through the swab.

Getting results can take somewhere between 30 minutes and four hours.

Meanwhile, to test for antibodies, a serology test is used. This tests blood samples obtained from a finger prick. If the diagnosis is positive for antibodies, it shows that a person had been infected with the virus and has developed an immune response.

Antibodies are detectable in the blood usually about two weeks after an infection of COVID-19.

Using standard testing methods, both types of tests (molecular amplification, and serology) require technical expertise and some sophisticated equipment.

What is rapid testing?

Trained technicians are not widely available to conduct PCR tests, which means there are often insufficient numbers of people managing a large number of samples from patients. 

Now, many companies are working to simplify and speed up the diagnostic process for detecting COVID-19 and other infections. Some are developing automated PCR machines that reduce the burden on technicians for whom the meticulous process of dealing with samples is time-intensive, while others are making easy-to-use paper tests to facilitate testing outside of laboratory settings. These are called rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs).

Earlier this month, scientists in Australia said they had devised a portable low-cost nasal swab molecular test that can diagnose COVID-19 in just 20 minutes.

“When people say ‘rapid diagnostic test’ they are usually talking about those that can be performed at or near the patient’s bedside, like the common pregnancy tests, and that can be simple enough to be run by a healthcare worker and [the] results determined visually, even by the patient in some cases,” Dr Mark Perkins, team lead for laboratories at the WHO, told Al Jazeera.

Antigen detection tests

Enter the antigen test for COVID-19.

Antigens are molecules that stimulate an immune response. Antibodies are proteins produced in response to exposure to antigens.

These new rapid tests use a hand-held device to detect the presence of proteins from the virus in respiratory samples.

This testing technique is cheaper and faster than most PCR tests, giving a result within 30 minutes.

How does it work? A sample of bodily fluid is collected using a swab, and applied with a liquid onto a strip of special paper. The liquid travels along the paper, carrying the antigens with it. If a person is infected, bound antibodies on the paper capture any antigens and indicator dyes show the user where those were captured.

In May, the United States Food and Drug Administration authorised the emergency use of its first antigen test for COVID-19.

A healthcare worker writes the date on a rapid antigen detection testing kit after collecting swabs from residents during a check-up campaign to tackle the coronavirus outbreak in Ahmedabad, India [File: Amit Dave /Reuters]

Several states in India have ramped up mass testing with the introduction of rapid antigen test kits.

Perkins said these could potentially be a “game-changer”, facilitating early and easy detection of the virus, especially in developing countries.

“If you live in a small town in a developing country, the chance there’s going to be a PCR machine in your town is small, so this is why there is a push to develop other methods that are simpler and require less complicated machinery,” he said.

But are they reliable?

Researchers at the WHO are continuing to evaluate these antigen detection tests for accuracy.


Perkins said his team has seen good data on at least four of the dozens of antigen detection tests being developed. 

“These antigen detection tests are recently developed and haven’t been tested widely, but so far they all tend to have relatively high specificity – that is 98 to 99 percent of the people who are tested positive actually have the infection and only one or two percent of them are falsely positive,” Perkins said.

“The real challenge is to ensure they are sensitive enough to detect essentially all infectious patients,” he added. 

However, there are limitations to the innovation and the WHO has urged further validation before such tools can be recommended.

The United Nations health agency said: “Inadequate tests may miss patients with active infection or falsely categorise patients as having the disease when they do not, further hampering disease control efforts.”

Follow Saba Aziz on Twitter: @saba_aziz

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Museveni: We Don’t Encourage Export of Labour




President Museveni has urged Ugandans to exploit the available resources to create jobs and stem labour export.

Uganda does not encourage the export of human labour resource abroad,” said Museveni on Saturday, April 10.

”Uganda is a very rich country. It is bad to be poor. What matters is to have attitude change among our people and to put the available resources into use to create jobs,” he emphasized.

 Museveni said Uganda should emulate countries like South Korea and Japan whose nationals do not seek for jobs outside their countries.

The President was meeting the Regional Director of International Organization for Migration (IOM) Mohammed Abdiker in charge of East and the Horn of Africa who was accompanied by the UN Resident Coordinator, Rosa Malango.

Uganda has one of the highest population growth rates globally with more than 78% of its population below 30 years.

This is the productive age of many people but while the labour force is increasing with each passing year, the labour market is actually shrinking rendering it incapable of accommodating the 500,000 young Ugandans that join the labour market annually.

This makes labour export the most feasible alternative way out of this unemployment conundrum.

Uganda adopted the externalization of labour in 2005 as a measure to shed off its excess and abundant labour force though this policy has culminated into an industry that is lucrative but unregulated hence the making the need for regulatory processes more needed today than ever before.

Ugandan women were recently warned against the increasing number of criminal gangs in Kampala city who allegedly recruit girls on the streets promising them ‘juicy jobs in Malaysia and other East Asian countries and instead sell them into forced prostitution.

Remittances to Uganda have increased from $ 1.6 billion (Sh4.6 trillion) in 2016, to $ 2.0bn (Sh7 trillion in 2017 and they can only go higher as the labour export industry is regulated and formalized so that the nation can gain from the labour and exploits of her citizens.

Meanwhile, Museveni and Malango discussed the current political situation in the region including Somalia, South Sudan and the DRC.

During the meeting that was held at Independence Grounds at Kololo, the President said the political solution to Somalia was to senstize the nationals about the weaknesses of fronting issues of identity including tribal and religion as opposed to people’s common interests to achieve Socia-economic transformation, prosperity and political stability.

Mr. Mohammed Abdiker thanked the President for his tremendous input on two fronts mainly; fighting for the political stability of Somalia and South Sudan and combating Covid-19 pandemic.

He thanked the President for his support to IOM programmes on disaster response and refugees.

The post Museveni: We Don’t Encourage Export of Labour first appeared on ChimpReports.

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Opposition sidelined as Benin votes in presidential election | Elections News




With most rivals in exile or sidelined, Benin’s President Patrice Talon looks set to win a second term in office.

Voters in Benin are set to cast their ballots in a presidential election on Sunday, days after deadly protests against President Patrice Talon, who is heavily favoured to win a second term.

Talon, a cotton magnate first elected in 2016, faces off against two little-known rivals, Alassane Soumanou and Corentin Kohoue.

Opponents accuse the 62-year-old Talon of undermining Benin’s vibrant multi-party democracy by sidelining most of his main opponents.

Protests in several cities last week turned violent. At least two people died in the central city of Save when troops on Thursday fired tear gas and live rounds to break up protesters who had blocked a major highway. Five others were wounded.

In the commercial capital Cotonou, several people said they feared violence on election day.

“The events of these last days scare me,” said Christophe Dossou, a student. “I prefer to remain cautious.”

Benin’s President Patrice Talon denies targeting his opponents [File: Philippe Wojazer/Reuters]

Among the protesters’ complaints are Talon’s U-turn on a pledge he made as a candidate in 2016 to serve only one term, and changes he pushed through to election laws that he said were aimed at streamlining unwieldy government institutions. In practice, those reforms resulted in total control of parliament by Talon’s supporters and the exclusion of leading opponents from the presidential race.

One opposition leader Reckya Madougou was detained last month on accusations of plotting to disrupt the election, a charge her lawyer says is fabricated.

A judge from a special economic crimes court created by Talon also fled the country last week after denouncing political pressure to make rulings against the president’s critics, including the decision to detain Madougou.

Meanwhile, businessman Sebastien Ajavon, who came third in the 2016 presidential poll, was convicted of drug trafficking in 2018 and sentenced to 20 years in prison, while another potential rival, ex-finance minister Komi Koutche, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for embezzlement. Ajavon lives in exile in France, while Koutche lives in Washington, DC.

Talon denies targeting his opponents.

He has campaigned on his economic record, which includes improvements to key infrastructure such as roads, water and energy supplies.

Soldiers stand in line to block supporters of the incumbent president during an electoral campaign rally at Abomey-Calavi, on April 9, 2021 [Pius Utomi Ekpei/ AFP]

Benin, a country of about 12 million people, became Africa’s top cotton exporter in 2018 and recorded average annual gross domestic product growth of over 5 percent before the global economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“What we did was not easy,” Talon said at one of his final campaign rallies on Friday. “We are strong and we know how to get it done.”

He said he expects a “knock-out victory” for which there would be no need for a runoff vote.

The United States, German, French and Dutch embassies as well as the European Union delegation in Benin all called on Friday for calm and for the vote to go ahead in a free and transparent manner.

“We urge all parties to express their perspectives peacefully,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters. “We urge the electoral institutions and courts overseeing these processes and verifying these results to ensure these elections are conducted freely, fairly, and transparently.”

Results are expected to be announced on Monday or Tuesday.

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Trucks Traveling to Juba Get Military Escort




Government of Southern Sudan has agreed to provide full military security and safety to all road users including Ugandan cargo truck drivers plying Juba – Nimule highway starting this week.

This was reached during a meeting between South Sudan government and Ugandan authorities on Friday at Elegu One-stop Border point in Amuru district, Northern Uganda.

High level security officials from both countries met to deliberate on the deteriorating security along major highways in South Sudan in which eight Ugandan truck drivers have been shot dead by armed men in the past weeks.

The Sudanese high-level delegation was led by the country’s Chief of Defense Forces, Gen. Johnson Juma, Inspector General of Police, Gen. Majak Akech, and Director-General of Internal Security, Gen. Akol Khor.

The Deputy Commissioner General of the National Revenue Authority, Hon. Africano Mande was also present and four East African Ambassadors.

On the other side, Uganda’s delegation was led by Police Operations Director AIGP Edward Ochom, Director Crime Intelligence Col. Damulira among others high ranking officers.

“We have successively concluded our two days meetings with Ugandan authorities including the drivers who later agreed to resume the normal operation,” said South Sudan authorities.

“And as government, we assure them of full security on the major highways in the Republic of South Sudan and removal of the illegal road blocks and check-points for easy movement of trucks to Juba and others towns within the country.”

Last week, truck drivers from across the East African region protested the increasing insecurity in South Sudan, illegal taxes and also demanded for compensation of their deceased colleagues.

They parked their trucks at Elegu border and demanded for both governments to intervene before the situation deteriorates further.

In regards to compensation, Sudanese authorities agreed to pay for the victims but said that the process will be discussed through the foreign ministries of the two countries.

Although traders had also requested Ugandan authorities and in this case the UPDF to escort their goods to South Sudan, Lt.Col Deo Akiki said that “this can’t be a decision of UPDF. South Sudan is a sovereign State, therefore anything done on its territory at the moment has to be a bilateral matter beyond the two forces. It’s a government to government affair.”

ChimpReports understands that some trucks on Saturday left Elegu border for Juba under full security escort.

The post Trucks Traveling to Juba Get Military Escort first appeared on ChimpReports.

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