New COVID-19 testing equipment deployed in Tonga

Nuku’Alofa

Last week, the Tonga Laboratory Services completed the installation of a 4 module GeneXpert testing equipment used for diagnosis of COVID-19 infection and to increase SARS-coV-2 testing capacity.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, each Pacific Island Country and Territory (PICT) had one or two GeneXpert equipment for diagnosis of tuberculosis (TB) and sexually transmitted infections (STI), supported by Global Fund. The same equipment had been used for COVID-19 testing in the last 12 months.

The progressive increase in demand for COVID-19 testing in PICTs over the past months resulted in frequent equipment downtime due to repair and maintenance affecting not only COVID-19 testing but also TB and STI testing. Therefore, the need to have a dedicated equipment for COVID-19 SARS-CoV-2 testing was critical.

Telesia Apikotoa, Laboratory Manager at Tonga Laboratory Services, said this equipment will help them prepare for the worst should an outbreak occur. “This equipment will strengthen our COVID-19 testing capabilities and receiving 4 additional modules for testing is of great help to us. We acknowledge the support received since the beginning of this pandemic to improve our laboratory’s services and capabilities”. 

Dr Eka Buadromo, Senior Laboratory Advisor at the Pacific Community's (SPC) Public Health Division, said that SPC continues to provide technical support to Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs) during this COVID-19 pandemic through the provision of polymerase chain reaction  testing facilities, equipment, consumables, and reagents required for SARS-CoV-2 testing.

“The deployment of GeneXpert equipment to PICTs specifically to test for SARS-CoV-2 will improve diagnostic accuracy, turnaround time of test results and also lengthen the life-span of the instrument”.

This has been made possible by the Pacific Community (SPC) with financial support from the Agence Française de Développement (AFD) Grant and European Union (EU), while purchased through the UNICEF-procurement system for COVID-19 emergency supplies.

So far, 12 PICTs have received GeneXpert equipment and SPC continues to work with the Joint Pacific COVID-19 Incident Management Team and other donor partners to support the supply of GeneXpert testing cartridges and further ensure that PICTs are well prepared to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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