Arrival of GeneXpert calibration kits and cartridges will support expansion of Covid-19 testing to provinces in Solomon Islands

On 22 December The Australian Government and World Health Organization (WHO) officially handed over three additional GeneXpert calibration kits and 600 GeneXpert cartridges to the Ministry of Health and Medical Services to enhance COVID-19 testing in the provinces.

GeneXpert machine cartridges and calibration kits are essential components in the installation and operation of the machine to perform COVID-19 testing.  With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, demand for the GeneXpert calibration kits and cartridges all over the world has drastically increased thus affecting the global supply chain to countries including Solomon Islands and replenishment of the current stock remains a challenge.

With COVID-19 testing capabilities in place in Gizo Hospital, Western Province, the additional three calibration kits will enable expansion of COVID-19 testing to Kilufi hospital, Malaita province, Taro hospital in Choiseul and the National Public Health Laboratory at the Solomon Islands National University, in Honiara.

During a hand over of the new kits and cartridges at the National Medical Store, Counsellor for Human Development, Australian High Commission, Ms Julie McCallum explained COVID-19 had affected global supply chain of these items.

Nevertheless, Ms McCallum attributed the successful procurement and delivery of the kits and cartridges to its strong partnership with WHO and the Ministry of Health and Medical Services. “Despite these challenges, in the global supply chain for the procurement of GeneXpert calibration kits and cartridges, Australia is happy to partner with WHO to support the procurement and logistics management of the essential kits to the country,’’ Ms McCallum said.

“Overall the Australian Government remains committed towards its bilateral partnership with the Solomon Islands government and technical agencies such as WHO to ensure that we continue to managed effectively and safely the COVID-19 global pandemic preserving and protecting the lives of Solomon Islands from the virus.”

Kirsten Frandsen, WHO Technical Officer, echoed similar sentiments with the difficulties in procuring such items in light of the global pandemic. “The pandemic has taught us that only through partnership, collaboration and cooperation we can successfully overcome challenges that the virus presents to us”. 

 “As such WHO is very pleased to have partnered with the Australian High Commission to support the procurement of these items to Solomon Islands to strengthen health services and systems”.

“WHO would like to specifically acknowledge the MHMS under the leadership of Permanent Secretary, Pauline McNeil and her team for their strategic approach and tireless efforts to safeguard and protect the public from Covid-19”.

 “With this handing over today WHO is very pleased to continue supporting the Ministry of Health in its efforts against COVID-19 as it is our mandate to provide the necessary capacity and capabilities for health to effectively and efficiently deliver health services, thereby preserving and enhancing health of all Solomon Islanders. In this case, against COVID-19”, stated Ms Frandsen.

Last month, WHO supported the technical upgrade of lab technicians from all provinces to operate, install and troubleshoot GeneXpert machines via a webinar with Cepheid, a molecular diagnostic company in the United States.

 “Decentralization of COVID-19 readiness to the provinces has all along been a top key priority of the Ministry of Health in its COVID-19 preparedness and response plan thus the handing over of GeneXpert cartridges and calibration kits will greatly support the ministry in this regard. As such sincere thanks to the government of Australia and WHO”, stated Mr. Michael Larui, Deputy Secretary, Public Health Supervising and National Head of Nursing, when receiving the items.

He added that the continued support of the government of Australia and WHO towards ongoing health efforts against COVID-19 had greatly contributed towards the ministry’s and the government’s success in delaying the virus from entering the country and in containing the virus 

“Despite registering total of 17 positive cases, all have been swiftly detected, contained and eliminated within quarantine stations and isolations without any evidence to suggest community transmission or spread beyond these managed facilities to date. This is a manifestation of our strong partnership and your commitment towards our efforts against COVID-19”, highlighted Mr. Larui.

Australia, WHO and the Ministry also recognised Global Fund investments on Tuberculosis Program in the Solomon Islands, that made available 14 GeneXpert machines in the country of which four are being repurposed for COVID-19 testing in Gizo Hospital, National Referral Hospital Molecular Laboratory and Public Health Laboratory.