Self-test a crucial tool for early detection of COVID-19: Kit maker

COVID-19 self-test kits, which were approved by Chinese regulators for public use on March 11, are convenient and accurate enough to supplement regular PCR tests, according to the CEO of a test kit manufacturer.

"The whole process, including three steps of sampling and processing, adding the sample, and detecting, can be completed in 15 minutes," Zhao Lijian, CEO of BGI Genomics, told CGTN. "This is a relatively effective and accurate way to conduct a self-test as of now."

The antigen tests will be promoted in addition to regular nucleic acid tests. Individuals can use them for early detection, and those who test positive for the virus using antigen tests are required to report immediately to their residential communities for further tests and medical treatment, according to the National Health Commission.

Zhao said, according to the rules, three tiers of people can use the self-test kits. "First are those who visit community healthcare centers within five days of having respiratory symptoms or fever. The second group covers those in quarantine, including those in isolation, close contacts of COVID-19 patients, overseas arrivals, and residents of areas under lockdown. The third group is mainly community residents who want to get tested."

Community residents can pre-order self-test kits from both retail drugstores and online via multiple platforms. For those under quarantine, communities, villages and quarantine sites are responsible for the purchase, distribution and management of the self-test kits.

The results of BGI Genomics' test kits can be sent directly to medical centers, which helps save on medical resources and enhances accuracy. Hi-tech is being used to accelerate the efficiency of this antigen-testing mechanism, Zhao said.

"We have produced analyzers to match the testing process. Those analyzers, which are connected to cloud platforms, can automatically upload test results and share data with health centers. Once there are positive cases, medics can find out immediately," Zhao explained.

Residents in some Chinese cities have received free antigen self-test kits from health authorities recently. More self-test products will be available soon online and in pharmacies nationwide amid the infection spike.

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