FILE PHOTO: A security personnel from town council wears a face mask while he controls traffic, as Ghana enforces partial lockdown in the cities of Accra and Kumasi to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Madina neighborhood of Accra, Ghana, March 31, 2020. REUTERS/Francis Kokoroko
LAGOS (Reuters) – Ghana is using delivery drones from U.S.-based startup Zipline to enable it to test people more quickly outside major cities for the novel coronavirus, the company said on Monday.
Ghana has 834 confirmed infections and nine people 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 capital Accra and to Kumasi, the second-largest city.
“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 release.
As of April 15, the Ghana Health Service said it had tested 57,000 coronavirus samples.
Zipline, 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 enable the coronavirus sample flights.
The company said using drones would cut the delivery time for test samples from hours, with trucks needing to traverse rural roads to collect tests from multiple hospitals, to under an hour in some cases.
It said it expects to operate the service daily “for the duration of the Government’s COVID-19 response efforts.”
Reporting by Libby George; Editing by Hugh Lawson