At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I negotiated assistance for COVID-19 laboratory testing for Pacific Island countries which resulted in the timely assistance offered by the Victorian Infectious Disease Research Laboratory in testing samples that were referred from South Pacific island Countries. My work also involved assessing molecular testing platforms the pacific island countries and negotiated with partner organization; WHO and Cepheid to produce GeneXpert testing cartridges as the COVID-19 testing option for Pacific Island nations. As a result, GeneXpert cartridges were manufactured, evaluated and passed by FDA in March 2020 and Pacific Island countries were prioritized to receive supplies.
“I am currently working on facilitating the establishment of RTPCR testing laboratories and RTPCR in Samoa, Vanuatu, Kiribati and Cook Islands to supplement COVID-19 testing in these countries”
I am also organizing the purchase and transfer of laboratory testing consumables and reagents to Pacific Island countries.
The shortage of supplies and lack of reliable testing platforms for COVID-19 globally has been a challenge that adds to the unpredictability of ways to manage. It has also been challenging trying to manage changes due to the unpredictability of Novel COVID-19 infections. The disturbance to normal work routine has created a struggle to meet timelines in projects and scheduled activities as well as the need to constantly switch focus between COVID-19 related work to others. Another challenge that has been interesting to note is the need to get used to virtual delivery of activities as COVID-19 has presented an opportunity to explore innovative means to deliver programs. Additionally, shipping of much needed laboratory supplies directly to Pacific island countries has been a challenge due to the various border restrictions and lockdowns.
However, like may experiences, these challenges have brough about some great achievements. Countries are now able to conduct COVID-19 testing, and this provides confidence to communities in that while they can and are able to test for COVID-19, this testing is also done in a timely manner. Most countries can now make plans to open borders and repatriate citizens.
Because COVID-19 testing is now available, this will assist clinical services to effectively plan ways to manage positive cases. This also provides an opportunity for public health service providers to put in place good surveillance systems that will protect the community.