News, Policy & Media

09Mar

New DFID funding announced for Coronavirus testing

The global race to find a vaccine for coronavirus is to be bolstered by funding announced as part of the UK’s international development budget.

UK experts are leading the scientific and medical response to the global coronavirus outbreak and the UK was one of the first countries to establish a laboratory test for the virus. However, no country has yet found a method of diagnosing coronavirus without sending samples to a lab for testing – a process that can take several days.

The PM has visited Mologic lab in Bedfordshire which is using UK aid funding to develop rapid diagnostic test devices for coronavirus to allow medical professionals or potentially even individuals at home to identify the disease quickly without relying on specialist facilities. This will mean patients can be treated more quickly, reducing the risk of them passing the virus onto others and helping them to recover quickly. The lab is building on extensive experience creating similar tests for other infections.

A rapid diagnostic test can also be used by countries around the world that are not currently able to diagnose the virus at all. Low-income countries without the medical infrastructure to conduct laboratory tests or who do not have access to the necessary reagents are not able to differentiate coronavirus from other common causes of fever such as other bacterial, viral and parasitic infections.

The majority of cases in those countries are therefore going unchecked, increasing the risk of the virus spreading both locally and around the world. To ensure access to the technology, the test will therefore be jointly manufactured in the UK and Senegal — the first time a diagnostic has been produced in the African continent, supported by UK aid funding.

Today’s funding package, which includes support for the World Health Organization’s Flash Appeal, will also help vulnerable countries prepare for the spread of the disease in other ways.

UK-funded infectious disease experts are working in developing countries which have large urban populations and transport links to the UK and to China and other countries experiencing large outbreaks. Experts will support countries to prepare for and respond to suspected cases, for example by creating effective isolation zones. International efforts are being coordinated by a new UK Government Coronavirus International Taskforce, bringing together expertise from the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Members with an interest in the funding should contact the Department for International Development on 0207 023 0600.

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