Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande said that as the highly infectious Delta variant continues to drive South Africa's third wave of Covid-19 infections. Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)
Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande said that as the highly infectious Delta variant continues to drive South Africa's third wave of Covid-19 infections. Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)

Sahpra authorises CapeBio to manufacture Covid-19 rapid test kits locally

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Aug 18, 2021

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Cape Town - The SA Health Products Regulatory Authority (Sahpra) has authorised a city biotechnology company, CapeBio, to manufacture Covid-19 rapid test kits locally.

The Covid-19 test kits, co-developed by CapeBio and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), will help to reduce the country's reliance on imports, making it easier to gain speedy access to test kits not just for South Africa but the rest of the continent.

Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande said that as the highly infectious Delta variant continues to drive South Africa's third wave of Covid-19 infections, testing has become increasingly important.

"The more testing is done, the easier it is for a country to track the virus, identify clusters, and act accordingly.

"This latest development is part of a concerted effort by the department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and its partners to build local capabilities to respond to viruses like Covid-19.

“Ensuring that diagnostics, vaccines, etc 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," said Nzimande.

CapeBio chief executive Daniel Ndima said the company and its partners at the CSIR had already commenced industrial-scale manufacturing of the test kits and the first batches will be available for local market uptake before the end of August.

“At full operational capacity, the company will be able to produce up to 5 000 kits a day, with each kit providing for 1 000 tests. This is a massive achievement in the national response to the pandemic and a significant milestone for our country,” said Ndima.

The CSIR's principal investigator, Dr Lusisizwe Kwezi, said Sahpra's approval showed confidence in the high standard of local biotechnology development.

This comes in the wake of the provincial health department reporting that the Western Cape is recording an average of 3 100 new Covid-19 diagnoses each day.

Head of health Dr Keith Cloete’s metro resurgence overview for July 29 to August 5 shows that overall, there is a 7% week-on-week increase in daily new cases in the metro and a 1% week-on-week increase in daily new cases in the rural districts.

However as numbers appeared to begin to plateau, the South African Covid-19 Modelling Consortium (SACMC) a group of researchers from academic, non-profit, and government institutions, said the probability that the Western Cape may have passed the peak has increased to 34%. It was previously 27%.

The provincial dashboard shows that by 1pm on Tuesday, the Western Cape had conducted over two million tests so far and had 41 350 active Covid-19 infections.

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