Editor's Picks


Hope amidst despair

30 November 2020

Covid-19 tests on low supply

Wednesday 18 November 2020 | Written by Emmanuel Samoglou | Published in Health, National


Covid-19 tests on low supply
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 results.

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 staff.

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.