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250,000 rapid tests headed to the Pacific

The Pacific Development Foundation, non-profit arm of mobile money provider KlickEx, has procured 250,000 antibody rapid tests for the Pacific to test for COVID-19.

Chairman, Robert Bell, said the rapid tests will be distributed around the Pacific Islands by the KlickEx team, who will be able to automate orders and delivery to Governments and Hospitals in the region.

“We are taking every precaution – and the delays on delivery are due to certifying the type of tests we are able to supply – and the difficulty of making them available to the public on a large scale, while lock-downs are in place,” Mr. Bell explained.

Samoa has already got at least 4000 rapid test kits on the way. 

Three thousand were donated by the Chairman of the Sheraton Samoa Aggie Grey’s Hotel, Wenying He, and 1000 by the government of China. 

A further 200 have been donated by Samoa’s Chinese Embassy in Apia and are in Auckland.

Like KlickEx, each donation is coming up against border closures and travel restrictions when trying to get test kits to the Pacific.

The tests themselves are antibody tests that find the immune system’s response to the coronavirus COVID-19. Mr. Bell said though they don’t find the genetic material of COVID-19, they are still a “worthwhile effort” in the work to contain the spread of the virus.

“As such, we encourage people to take action, and pre-order the test kits ahead of time, at this stage – knowing we will begin delivering them as soon as circumstances permit”, he said.

So far Samoa has no confirmed cases of COVID-19. Just 31 people have had genetic tests sent to New Zealand and all have been returned negative.

The nation’s challenge – not having a P.C.R. machine in order to test COVID-19 swab samples – has meant long wait times for test results sent abroad. The border and travel restrictions are significant challenges to Samoa beginning any kind of broad testing for people with cold and flu symptoms, especially recent arrivals from abroad. 

Mr. Bell said while the P.C.R. test is still the definitive medical test, antibody tests should be used frequently on essential workers to keep track of their health conditions.

“We believe that a significant amount of comfort can be gained by taking simplified tests like these, once a week, for all essential workers, and the population at large. 

“Bulk orders are pennies on the dollar, compared to full tests, and do not burden the health system in the same way. 

“However, especially in the early days of infection, following exposure, these tests do struggle to detect infections (especially before symptoms show), and can mean that up to one in five infected people may pass the test un-diagnosed, in the first 0-3 days. Therefore we recommend at least two tests – one immediately, and another 5-10 days later (after travel) or before leaving quarantine.”

KlickEx is one of the largest remittance companies serving the Pacific.

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