Australia supports Tonga’s COVID-19 testing

Tonga will be better able to detect and prevent the spread of COVID-19, with the arrival of a new testing machine and testing cartridges from the World Health Organization supported by Australia, New Zealand and other development partners.

The equipment arrived in the country yesterday (Thursday).

Tonga is one of twelve Pacific island countries receiving GeneXpert testing equipment provided by the World Health Organization, which over the coming months will allow samples to be tested in-country – in some for the first time. The GeneXpert testing system provides reliable results within 45 minutes.

Tonga will receive a new GeneXpert testing machine, as well as a small initial batch of the testing cartridges. Further batches will follow over the coming weeks. In all, the WHO has procured 96,591 GeneXpert testing cartridges and three additional machines to enable testing across the Pacific.

Until now, many Pacific island countries have had no in-country capacity to test for COVID-19, requiring specimens to be shipped internationally. The Pacific Community (SPC) and the WHO have been working with health departments across the region to ensure they are ready to start GeneXpert testing for COVID-19.

‘Australia is pleased to support Tonga and to stand with our Pacific family as our region faces the threat of COVID-19’, said Australia’s High Commissioner to Tonga.

Australia and New Zealand have each contributed AUD 1 million and the Pacific Community and the Pacific Islands Health Officer’s Association have each contributed USD 500,000 to WHO to procure the testing equipment, which is being delivered on flights to the Pacific, including through Australia’s Pacific Corridor, in support of the Pacific Island Forum’s Pacific Humanitarian Pathway.

The corridor is enabling essential services and humanitarian assistance to reach the Pacific, through Australia, amid global transport and border restrictions due to the pandemic. Australia is working with Pacific partners, Timor-Leste, New Zealand and regional organisations on this initiative.

The supplies will be subject to strict handling protocols to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19 in the region. Passengers and crew are subject to health checks before departure, and surfaces and equipment are disinfected regularly.


Photo supplied Caption (L-R) Madeleine Scott Australian High Commission, Dr Sela Fa’u Ministry of Health and Dr Yutaro Setoya World Health Organisation