South Africa has started manufacturing rapid Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test kits in an effort to stop relying on imports and improve the country’s competitiveness, said Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation Blade Nzimande.
In a statement on Saturday, he said CapeBio, a local biotechnology company, has started manufacturing the PCR test kits with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), reports Xinhua news agency.
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 Covid-19 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).
“This is a massive achievement in the national response to the pandemic and a significant milestone for our country.
“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.