Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Coronavirus: Business and technology in a pandemic

Calling in the cavalry: Amazon may deliver COVID-19 test kits

Jeff Bezos hints this could be the firm’s contribution to battling the virus.

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has hinted that his company's network may be put to use delivering tests for the coronavirus

On Thursday, the chief executive published an Instagram post saying that he had enjoyed a "good call" with the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on the subject of the COVID-19 and the global response to the outbreak of the respiratory illness. 

At the time of writing, there are over 542,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases. The United States has now overtaken China in the most recorded cases with 85,000. China, of which the city of Wuhan is believed to be the origin of the outbreak, has recorded roughly 81,000 cases, followed by Italy, Spain, and Germany. 

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According to Bezos, Amazon is exploring how it may contribute to "the urgent need for collective action to produce and distribute plentiful COVID-19 test kits."

"I told Dr. Tedros we will continue to help WHO in every way we can in the coming weeks and months," the executive added.

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Screenshot via Instagram

This statement suggests that the e-commerce giant may be gearing up to provide delivery services to ensure testing kits are sent to those most in need, potentially in the United States and beyond. 

In particular, Bezos said that "logistics support" was already on offer, although there are no concrete details at present. However, it is worth noting that Amazon -- despite creaking under the weight of an explosion in consumer demand -- has already agreed to distribute test kits in the United Kingdom.

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The UK Public Health England (PHE) is evaluating fingerprick tests that may be able to detect if someone has had the virus and, therefore, might have some immunity. The UK government has ordered 3.5 million tests. 

Bezos also noted that Amazon and its cloud computing subsidiary, Amazon Web Services (AWS) are increasing the capacity for the WHO website as individuals flock to the domain for updates and advice on COVID-19, as well as providing machine learning (ML) support for the agency's Epidemic Intelligence from Open Sources initiative (EIOS).

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EIOS is a collaborative effort between public health organizations worldwide. Members work together to come up with new ways to detect, verify, and tackle public health risk threats. 

Over this week, Amazon staff at multiple warehouse facilities across the United States tested positive for COVID-19. Some locations have been temporarily closed for cleaning. Amazon told CNN that "extreme measures" are being taken "to ensure the safety of employees at our site[s]." 

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