A refurbished container laboratory was officially opened last week by Kiribati’s Ministry of Health and Medical Services. The laboratory will enhance the nation’s in-country COVID-19 testing capacity.
During the last year Kiribati had been relying on the Gene Xpert testing platform to diagnose COVID-19. The refurbished reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) molecular laboratory container will now provide the Island nation with an additional testing platform and new capabilities for diagnosing COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
The improved laboratory was made possible with support from the Pacific Community (SPC) and funding assistance from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). The refurbished container lab and the RT-PCR equipment, reagents and consumables are also funded by DFAT, with additional reagents, and consumables provided by New Zealand’s Pacific Pathology Training Centre (PPTC) through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) funding.
At the official opening on Friday, Honourable Minister for the Ministry of Health & Medical Services Dr Tinte Itinteang said, “Our gathering this afternoon marks the result of a collaboration between Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Community and our Government. A collaboration that is significantly taking Kiribati a step further in our local diagnostic testing capacities for infectious diseases and particularly in this COVID pandemic. The supports from our development partners has enabled our Government to achieve one of its preparedness and response priority plans”.
Director for SPC’s Public Health Division Dr Berlin Kafoa said the establishment of this laboratory will improve testing capabilities not only for COVID-19, but for other outbreak prone disease and the ability to test for arboviruses including dengue, Zika and Chikungunya, leptospirosis, measles, and others.
“This means that countries now have the capacity to conduct tests locally without having to send samples to reference laboratories in the region thus allowing a quicker turn around time for test results and improved patient management allowing prompt and effective interventions to contain suspected outbreaks”.
PPTC, Doherty Institute and the Fiji Communicable Disease Centre has been instrumental in providing virtual trainings and support.
Kiribati laboratory manager Rosemary Tekoaua said, “The availability of RT-PCR testing and the virtual trainings and supports from our development partners will support the National Laboratory Department to uncover the underlying mechanisms of emerging infectious diseases such as COVID-19 for efficient clinical managements and more importantly it will guide and inform decision makers for the health safety of the people of Kiribati”.