W.H.O. provides COVID19 tests for Samoa

Samoa will receive 6,000 GeneXpert tests from the World Health Organisation (W.H.O.) to finally test for the coronavirus on the island, with border closures making testing abroad near impossible. 

Samoa has a GeneExpert machine at Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital, and the Health Specialist Centre installed one in December 2019. The Clinic has separately ordered 500 tests.

The tests are in the form of cartridges, which target two genes in SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19. 

A single machine can test 40 samples in eight hours.

Samoa's W.H.O. Country Representative, Dr. Rasul Baghirov, said as time goes on Samoa’s need for more tests will be assessed. 

“The number of cartridges allocated for each country was estimated based on the assumption that three per cent of the country population will be tested for COVID-19,” he said. 

“This is just an estimation to support the initial roll out of this new testing service and needs will be revised periodically. Accordingly, Samoa is to initially receive cartridges to perform 6,000 tests.”

With global transport challenges, the W.H.O. cannot confirm when the tests will arrive in Samoa but is hoping they will arrive at the end of April or beginning of May.

As well as tests, swabs and other necessary consumables will be delivered to Samoa. 

The entire delivery and transportation will cost more than US$120,000 (T$334,565).

“As necessary, W.H.O. in partnership with [the Pacific Community] S.P.C., will also provide necessary technical support to [the Ministry of Health] laboratory in running the tests. 

“The experts have been assigned to provide regular updates to the incident management team Lab Cell on the progress of country readiness, implementation of assessment recommendations and GeneXpert use.”

Altogether 23 Pacific countries, including Samoa, will be receiving GeneExpert tests from W.H.O.

The region accounts for 10 of the 16 countries that have still reported no cases of the new coronavirus, the rest being Comoros, Lesotho and Sao Tome and Principe in Africa, North Korea, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. 

Every country in the Pacific has a GeneXpert machine except Tokelau, Dr. Baghirov said.

The Ministry of Health has yet to respond to questions sent on who will be chosen for testing when the cartridges arrive. 

So far, tests have been conducted on people with recent travel history or are close contacts with a person with recent travel history who have a dry cough and fever.

Not one of the 32 people tested so far have been positive for COVID-19. 

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