For the latest information on the Wooroloo bushfire, northeast of Perth, search on ABC Emergency or find your local ABC radio station

The US Department of Defense has awarded Brisbane-based biotech company Ellume a contract worth 230 million USD (302 million USD) to ramp up production of its COVID-19 home test kits

The test is bought without a prescription in the US but is not available in Australia

The money will enable increased kit production and the number of tests conducted in the US by 640 by the end of the year000 tests per day increase, with 85 million kits to be distributed directly by the US government

Sean Parsons, founder and CEO of Ellume, said the contract would include building a bespoke facility in Maryland, southern United States

“This overnight deal with the US includes building a facility in the US that is roughly three times the size and supplying 85 million tests, mostly outside the US facility,” said Parsons

Ellume’s COVID-19 test is the first home test to receive FDA emergency clearance The company states an accuracy rate of around 95 percent

It is designed to detect fragments of the virus from a nasal swab sample taken from a person aged two years

The test can be purchased without a prescription in the US for just under AU $ 40 without the assistance of a doctor or health care provider

Andy Slavitt, Senior Advisor to the White House, said the funding would help Ellume dramatically increase production of the test kits There are currently 100000 pieces produced

“That’s good, but it’s obviously not where we need to be,” he said of a meeting at the White House

“By the end of this year they can scale their production to produce more than 19 million test kits per month, 85 million of which are guaranteed to the US government”

The kits are only available to US citizens for the time being Australian authorities have yet to approve coronavirus testing at home

“We have assured the US government that we will ship all of our product to the US,” said Parsons

We offer bespoke front pages for the local audience in every state and area. Learn how to sign up for more Queensland news

He said the company would look into ramping up production to serve an Australian market should the COVID-19 situation escalate here

“The US government gave us $ 30 million in late last year to help us expand our Australian manufacturing facility,” he said

“By accepting this American taxpayer money, we have assured you that any tests we can do will go to America, at least for now”

Mr Slavitt argued it was important to have tools like the home test kits if the US could get the coronavirus pandemic under control

“The ability to quickly test, contact traces and quarantine is a lynchpin of our national strategy and will be an integral part of containing the virus and curbing its spread in the community,” said Mr Slavitt

The company already has 10000 test kits shipped from its Brisbane facility to the US with a goal of sending 3 million tests by March

Ellume currently employs 350 people at its Richlands, Brisbane facility and will increase that number to over 500 in the coming months

We recognize the Aboriginal people and the Torres Strait Islander as the first Australians and traditional administrators of the countries where we live, learn and work

This service may contain material from Agence France-Presse (AFP), APTN, Reuters, AAP, CNN, and the BBC World Service that is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced

AEST = Australian Eastern Standard Time, 10 hours before GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)


World News – AU – The US awards a $ 302 million contract to Ellume in Brisbane to ramp up COVID test production at home