New Covid-19 testing equipment deployed in Tonga



Nuku'alofa, Tonga – The Tonga Laboratory Services has completed the installation of four-module GeneXpert testing equipment used for diagnosis of Covid-19 infection and to increase SARS-coV-2 testing capacity, the Pacific Community (SPC) reported today.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, each Pacific island country and territory had one or two GeneXpert equipment for diagnosis of tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections (STI), supported by Global Fund. The same equipment had been used for Covid-19 testing in the last 12 months.

The progressive increase in demand for Covid-19 testing in PICTs over the past months resulted in frequent equipment downtime due to repair and maintenance affecting not only Covid-19 testing but also TB and STI testing.


Therefore, the need to have dedicated equipment for Covid-19 SARS-CoV-2 testing was critical.

Telesia Apikotoa, laboratory manager at Tonga Laboratory Services, said this equipment will help them prepare for the worst should an outbreak occur.


“This equipment will strengthen our Covid-19 testing capabilities and receiving 4 additional modules for testing is of great help to us. We acknowledge the support received since the beginning of this pandemic to improve our laboratory’s services and capabilities."

Dr. Eka Buadromo, senior laboratory advisor at SPC Public Health Division, said SPC continues to provide technical support to Pacific islands during this Covid-19 pandemic through the provision of polymerase chain reaction testing facilities, equipment, consumables, and reagents required for SARS-CoV-2 testing.

“The deployment of GeneXpert equipment to PICTs specifically to test for SARS-CoV-2 will improve diagnostic accuracy, turnaround time of test results and also lengthen the life-span of the instrument," Baudromo said.

SPC said equipment installation was funded by Agence Française de Développement Grant and European Union , while purchased through the UNICEF-procurement system for Covid-19 emergency supplies.

So far, 12 Pacific islands have received GeneXpert equipment and SPC said it continues to work with the Joint Pacific Covid-19 Incident Management Team and other donor partners to support the supply of GeneXpert testing cartridges and further ensure that PICTs are well prepared to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. (SPC)