Jamie Smyth in Sydney

The US government has awarded a $231.8m contract to an Australian diagnostics company to enable it to ramp up production of the first Covid-19 home test kits that can be sold over-the-counter without a prescription.

Ellume, a Brisbane-based company, said the deal would enable it to establish its first US-manufacturing plant and deliver 8.5m test kits to the US government to help tackle the pandemic.

The test consists of a nasal swab analyser that connects to an application on users’ smartphones, providing rapid results without sending samples to a laboratory.

It is the first non-prescription self-administered, home test kit granted emergency approval by the US Federal Drug administration, which hopes the technology can help to control the spread of Covid-19. US authorities say the tests can provide results within 15 minutes, with an accuracy rate of about 95 per cent.

“They can be used if you feel symptoms of COVID-19 and also for screening of people without symptoms so they can safely go to work, to school and to events,” White House coronavirus adviser Andy Slavitt told a press conference.

The US government provided a $30m grant to help develop the single-use antigen tests, which are expected to retail at $30 per kit.

Ellume said it would deliver 100,000 tests per month from its Australian manufacturing facility until the new US manufacturing plant is built.

At its full capacity the US facility will be able to produce up to 19m tests per month, said the Australian company in a statement.

“We are prioritizing our partnership with the US government to mobilise tests quickly and in the most impactful way,” said Dr Sean Parsons, founder of Ellume. “We will fulfill the order for these tests at the same time as we ramp up the output across our production facilities, creating more possibilities for retail and private institution use in the future.”