SOUTH AFRICA – South Africa has manufactured rapid Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test kits in an effort to stop relying on imports and improve the country’s competitiveness.
In a statement, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande, said CapeBio, a local biotechnology company, has started manufacturing the PCR test kits with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
According to the Minister, this would make it easier for the country and African continent to speedily access test kits which they were importing.
“This latest development is part of a concerted effort by the department and its partners to build local capabilities to respond to viruses like Covid-19,” Nzimande said.
Ensuring that diagnostics, vaccines are locally manufactured means that South Africa need not depend on foreign imports of life saving products.
This is crucial, as the Covid19 pandemic has shown how difficult it is for the developing world to compete with richer nations for access to such products.
CapeBio CEO Daniel Ndima said they are happy that the test kits have been approved by the regulator South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA).
“We will be able to assist the nation and Africa by alleviating our reliance on imports that are normally associated with high costs and long lead times,” said Ndima.
He added that they have started industrial-scale manufacturing of the test kits and the first batches will be available for the local market before the end of this month.
In the near future, they will be producing 5,000 kits a day with each kit providing for 1,000 tests.
In July, the country, which has been adversely affected by the pandemic, received a donation of over 100,000 rapid test kits through SAMRC.
This was a boost at a time the African country was facing an unsurmountable number of new daily infections and vast testing was essential to establish severity of the situation.
The parastatal medical research organization said the Orient Gene Rapid Antibody Test kit was the first test of its kind to be registered to be used locally by the SAHPRA in 2020 and has been used in various studies to date.
These locally manufactured kits will be the second approved and used in the nation, and hopefully beyond.
President and CEO of the SAMRC, Professor Glenda Gray, has gone on record to say, “Epidemiological studies to uncover the numbers of people who have been infected by the virus remain crucial in the COVID-19 response and quality serological tests such as this one play an important role in these studies.”
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