Russian search engine and ride-hailing firm, Yandex, have announced that it will begin offering a safe and affordable COVID-19 home testing service using its "Helping Hand" social initiative.
At first, the service will be offered to residents of Moscow who are 65 or older and testing will be performed through a network of partner laboratories delivered by its “Helping Hand” taxi fleet.
As the availability of laboratory tests grows, the service will become available to people of all age groups and will expand to other Russian regions. Yandex will be covering the costs of the first 10,000 tests for people at greatest risk as part of its previously announced 250 million ruble coronavirus fund.
Yandex, together with its partner taxi companies, has created a dedicated fleet of cars equipped with a protective screen that keeps medical workers isolated from the drivers as they are taken to people's homes and back to the lab.
“Helping hand” is a social project launched by Yandex to help medical and social services, whose workload has grown many times during the coronavirus pandemic. As part of the project, Yandex organises transportation for medical workers to people's homes, as well as delivery of food packages, medications and tests for coronavirus.
The accessible testing for coronavirus has become available due to the joint efforts of a number of companies led by the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF). The RDIF contributed to the increase in the number of certified test kits, as well as the number of accredited laboratories.
Anyone wishing to be tested can submit a request on the project's site. Once the time and date are confirmed, a medical professional from one of the partner laboratories fully equipped with protective gear will arrive at the person's address in a car provided by the Helping Hand project and will take a nose or mouth swab, pack the sample and take it to the laboratory, with the result emailed to the person one to three days after that.
The testing is available for a fee, but there is also an option to request a free test on the project's site.
Tigran Khudaverdyan, Deputy CEO of Yandex, said: "Accessible testing is critical to effectively fight the pandemic. By helping laboratories to safely and quickly test people in their homes, we can slow down the spread of the virus. As a next step, we plan to launch delivery of coronavirus antibody tests."
Archimedes, Citylab, Family Doctor and Labquest Laboratories have joined the project as laboratory partners. They use the DSP, Generium, Litech and DNA test systems, as well as Express tests by EMG, a company backed by RDIF.