Abbott Laboratories
Abbott Laboratories

New York: The US Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday granted Abbott Laboratories approval to sell a test for the new coronavirus, as more companies begin producing much needed diagnostics for the pathogen that has set off a global pandemic.

The tests will help meet a major US shortfall of diagnostic capabilities that has severely limited the nation’s ability to track the spread of the outbreak.

The rise in US cases of COVID-19, a highly contagious and sometimes fatal respiratory illness, has concerned health officials and spurred calls from lawmakers for action to expand testing capacity to slow its spread.

Governors around the country have been begging for more test kits.

Abbott said it plans to immediately distribute around 150,000 tests to customers in the United States and will continue to ramp up production to hit a goal of providing up to 1 million tests per week.

“This is an example of what people can achieve when they come together in a moment of great need,” John Hackett, divisional vice president of applied research and technology at Abbott, said in a telephone interview. The tests will be conducted on Abbott’s m2000 platform, which is currently installed in 175 labs across the country.

“The majority of the systems are in hospital labs or academic centre labs,” Hackett said. “These are the places where you need them.”

The FDA has been rushing to approve tests for the coronavirus on an emergency basis. Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the White House’s coronavirus task force, said on March 4 that roughly 1.5 million tests would be available by the end of that week, while President Donald Trump said the same week that “anyone who wants a test, gets a test.”

Those assurances proved not to be the case and the United States lags far behind most other industrialized nations in coronavirus testing that public health officials deem critically important.

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