Ghana turns to drones to enable faster coronavirus testing

Ghana has 1,042 confirmed infections and nine people have died

FILE PHOTO: A volunteer distributes cooked food and water to the underprivileged and homeless, as Ghana enforces a partial lockdown in Accra and Kumasi in efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Accra, Ghana. April 4, 2020. REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko/File Photo

Ghana is using delivery drones to test people for the coronavirus more quickly outside major cities.

They will be provided by US-based start-up Zipline, the company said on Monday.

“Using contactless drone delivery to transport Covid-19 test samples will allow the government to respond to the pandemic and help save lives more quickly,” Zipline chief executive Keller Rinaudo said in a statement.

Ghana had 1,042 confirmed infections as of April 20 and nine people were known to have died from Covid-19, the disease the virus causes.

Zipline operated its first coronavirus test flight on April 1 and will now fly samples collected from more than 1,000 health facilities in rural areas to laboratories in the Ghanaian capital Accra and to Kumasi, the second-largest city.

The company, which already operates fleets of drones in Ghana and Rwanda to deliver blood, vaccines and other essential medical equipment to rural areas, is working with the Ministry of Health to arrange the coronavirus sample flights.

As of April 15, the Ghana Health Service said it had tested 57,000 coronavirus samples.

Zipline said using drones would cut the delivery time for test samples from several hours to under 60 minutes in some cases, as it removed the need to traverse rural roads to collect tests from hospitals.

It said it expects to operate the service daily “for the duration of the government’s Covid-19 response efforts”.