Tokelau grateful for Samoa's COVID-19 defence

Tokelau is grateful that Samoa’s COVID-19 response continues to keep the virus at bay as its government works to set up its own GeneXpert laboratory on the island.

The Head the Office of the Council for the Ongoing Government of Tokelau, Aukusitino Vitale, told the Samoa Observer that they are grateful Samoa declared a state of emergency [S.O.E.] in March this year, which continues to shield the atoll island nation from COVID-19.

“Samoa is the only window to enter Tokelau and any stringent measures put in place by Samoa to it's border is an extra protection for Tokelau,” he said.

“We continue with our infrastructure refurbishment and systems to complete our quarantine and isolation hospitals.  

Our delays have been a result of getting specialist engineers on to Tokelau due to border restrictions, transportation challenges and shortage of supplies on the island.”

Mr Vitale also revealed that the New Zealand government-funded GeneXpert laboratory has arrived and is being installed. 

“Our GeneXpert laboratory funded by New Zealand has arrived and is being installed and will be tested soon, along with the training of hospital staff on how to use it when carrying out lab tests."

The installation of other equipment to create a comfortable working environment for frontline staff in isolation and quarantine facilities will be completed soon.

According to Mr Vitale, Samoa’s repatriation flights also continue to benefit Tokelauans including those who have been repatriated.

“Some of our students were repatriated in April 2020 and most are continuing their studies online on Tokelau.  

“Unfortunately, students studying in Fiji were caught up in the border closure restrictions of Samoa and New Zealand.  

“They had to be rerouted through New Zealand – some could not get to New Zealand from Fiji because of their passport nationality.”

As for students who were repatriated back to Tokelau, Mr Vitale said some of them have continued their study programs online while those who didn’t have that option deferred their studies to next year. 

There are Tokelauans who are still stranded abroad including students and others who travelled overseas for medical treatment. 

“As mentioned earlier, Samoa is Tokelau's only window to the outside world. We are working closely with the Government of Samoa and with heartfelt gratitude, accept any opportunity being provided by Samoa to facilitate their return.  

“Understandably, dialogue continues and we defer to relevant officials of the Government of Samoa to provide any further information.”

A GeneXpert platform is produced by California-registered company Cepheid which manufactures equipment that can perform genetic analysis for medical purposes. 

In March this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave approval for a rapid COVID-19 test on the GeneXpert platform, which is regarded as one of the most widely-used TB diagnostic tools in the world. The GeneXpert technology can process nose swab samples in 45 minutes. 

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