A global shortage of Covid-19 test cartridges for the GeneXpert machine is being felt in the Cook Islands. 17091017
Health officials say a global shortage of Covid-19 testing equipment has affected their ability to receive new supplies, but a new testing lab slated for completion in the next few months will improve capabilities.
Supplies for Covid-19 tests are in low supply as health
officials work towards setting up a new and dedicated lab in Rarotonga that
will substantially improve testing capabilities.
Health officials currently test for the virus in-country
using the GeneXpert machine, created by American company, Cepheid.
The machine uses cartridges, however they are in short
supply in Cook Islands and around the globe.
Te Marae Ora (TMO) Ministry of Health spokesperson Jaewynn
McKay said there are now roughly 360 cartridges in stock. Each cartridge
contains four tests.
TMO says the GeneXpert machine is currently the most
cost-effective testing method, and takes approximately 24 hours to analyse test
The Cook Islands was fortunate to have received a
substantial stock of cartridges from the World Health Organization, that have
been used for testing since the onset of the pandemic.
Local health officials have also carried out nasal and oral
swab tests for Covid-19, which are sent to Auckland, New Zealand for analysis.
It can take approximately one week for results from a swab
test to return to the Cook Islands, and at $100 each they are said to be more
costly compared to testing completed on the GeneXpert machine.
To improve testing abilities in-country, health officials
are aiming to have a RT-PCR - or real-time polymerase chain reaction laboratory
- set up in roughly two months.
Te Marae Ora said the lab will provide a more cost-effective
solution with the ability to conduct up to 1000 tests per day.
After submitting proposals earlier this year, authorities
received the go-ahead and support to set up the lab and begin upskilling TMO
When set up, the lab will compliment earlier investments in
infrastructure that aim to support the country’s ability to respond with any potential
cases of Covid-19.
Earlier this year, Rarotonga Hospital was equipped with a
negative pressure room that can be used to treat critically ill Covid-19
patients as well as a host of other potentially fatal infectious illnesses.
Cook Islands has yet to record a single case of the virus.