Increasing COVID-19 testing capacity in the Pacific

  • Joint media release
  • Senator the Hon Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Women
  • The Hon Alex Hawke MP, Assistant Defence Minister, Minister for International Development and the Pacific
08 May 2020

Pacific Island countries will be equipped to more effectively detect and prevent the spread of COVID-19, with the arrival of new rapid diagnostic tests that build on Australia’s partnership with our region to protect against the pandemic.

Australia has been standing with the region during this challenging time, working in partnership with Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste to protect their communities from COVID-19. Support has included PPE, medical and hygiene supplies, and assistance with quarantine management, laboratories, pandemic communication, isolation facilities, and emergency response services.

Beyond immediate health security and safety concerns, our partnerships extend to working with Pacific Island countries and Timor-Leste to plan for the economic recovery. Confidence in testing systems and community health is essential to this.

The COVID-19 testing equipment, procured and delivered with support from Australia, provides reliable results in less than an hour.

The first deliveries arrived in Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea and Nauru in recent days. Initial supplies will reach a further nine Pacific Island countries in the coming fortnight. Many Pacific Island countries have not had in-country capacity to test for COVID-19, and have had to send specimens overseas, including to Australia, for results.

These will be followed by further deliveries. Their arrival will allow the Pacific Community (SPC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) to work with Pacific health departments to achieve faster and more effective testing for COVID-19.

The equipment includes testing machines and cartridges for individual tests. These produce rapid results from a basic nasal swab. Rapid detection is a key part of the region’s pandemic response.

The procurement and delivery of the testing equipment is a collaborative effort between Australia, New Zealand, the United States, the Pacific Community and the WHO.

The equipment is being delivered on flights to the Pacific, through Australia’s Pacific Corridor, in support of the Pacific Islands Forum’s Pacific Humanitarian Pathway.

The corridor is enabling essential services and humanitarian assistance to reach the Pacific, through Australia, amid global transport and border restrictions due to the pandemic. Australia is working with Pacific partners, Timor-Leste, New Zealand and regional organisations on this initiative.

In doing this, we are working with Pacific governments to make sure we meet their quarantine requirements, including for 14-days’ quarantine of their nationals in Australia before they return to their countries.

Australia has strict protocols to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19 in the region, which apply to handling freight and supplies. Passengers and crew are subject to health checks before departure, and surfaces and equipment are disinfected regularly.

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