Ministry mulls over self virus tests at homes

Wednesday September 16 2020


Officials say PCR test which is more reliable is expensive, as a result they are considering rolling out RAT that is affordable to make it more accessible. Photo | Cyril NDEGEYA  

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Ministry of Health is set to roll out self-testing for Covid-19 using the Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) to turn the tides against the virus.

Ministry of Health officials say the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test which is more reliable is expensive, forcing the government to consider rolling out RAT.

If approved, the public will be able to self-test at home and get results on the spot.

The new test kits will be used to screen asymptomatic individuals at homes, markets, tax parks and airport.

The PCR test costs around Rwf48400, the cost that is not within the reach of many.

Antigen test costs between Rwf969 and Rwf4,844. Over the past two months, about six companies have been approached for the trial of the kits.


“There is no doubt that nearly all people in the country will be tested for Cov-id-19 when the antigen test we have already started using proves to be accurate and with high sensitivity and specificity.

Then many people in the county will be able to do the test even every week due to reduced cost,” Dr Menelas Nkeshimana, an officer in charge of Covid-19 Case Management in Rwanda told Rwanda Today.

“We cannot and we will not manage to cover all the suspected people with the virus or continue with mass testing using only Polymerase Chain Reaction because it is expensive and takes a long time to get results,” says Mr Nkeshimana.

Dr Mwikarago Yvan, division manager of the National Reference Laboratory at Rwanda Biomedical Centre said PCR tests kits are not enough. Rwanda now runs more than 50,000 Covid-19 tests a day.

“Chemical reagents that allow for Ribonucleic Acid duplication are expensive and with the growing demand on the market, we cannot rely on one test if everyone suspected or in high-risk areas are tested.

This is why the new test is important to win the war against the pandemic,” said Mr Mwikarago.

He added that even though the ministry deployed new testing kits, this doesn’t stop the use of the PCR test because its 98 per cent accurate and reliable compared with the Rapid antigen test with an accuracy below 80 per cent.

However, Dr Mwikarago said rapid antigen test sometimes gives wrong results.