40,000 rapid-fire test kits from WHO

THE World Health Organisation is fast-tracking 40,000 rapid Covid-19 test kits to Papua New Guinea.
40,000 rapid-fire test kits from WHO 40,000 rapid-fire test kits from WHO 40,000 rapid-fire test kits from WHO 40,000 rapid-fire test kits from WHO 40,000 rapid-fire test kits from WHO

Dr Gary Nou

Staff Reporter

It comes as authorities plan to increase testing across the country, making it compulsory for hospitals to test patients with respiratory symptoms and high temperature, while weekly quotas are set for the 22 provinces, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports.
Health experts are worried people are ignoring health messages, with few people wearing face-masks, bus stops crowded and people ignoring social distancing in busy markets.
They are also concerned about the low number of people coming forward to be tested at the clinics that have been set up around the capital.
"You could have a thousand or two thousand testings in the city, but there is no point in having them if there is no one comes into testing," Covid-19 response spokesman Dr Gary Nou said.
He said there was still stigma surrounding Covid-19 tests and he blames that on fake news being spread on social media.
He says he has heard of some workers fearing they will lose their jobs if they test positive and are forced to go into quarantine.
"Some of the people who are experiencing symptoms and want to get tested actually are not coming in because of those factors," Dr Nou said.
Around 26,000 tests have been carried out in PNG, its population is estimated to be more than eight million people, while New Zealand - with just 5 million people - has conducted 980,000 tests.
The World Health Organisation is providing 40,000 antigen RD kits that can look for antigens, or proteins, that are found on the surface of the virus.
"Papua New Guinea will be able to access very shortly 40,000 antigen RD kits with funding provided through the global fund to fight HIV, TB, and malaria the total value of two $200,000," WHO representative Anna Maalsen said.
The kits cost $5 per unit and can give results in less than 30 minutes rather than hours or days like other tests.
They don't need specialty lab equipment and chemicals, but they are considered less accurate.
"This will really allow us to expand the capabilities to expand into those more rural and remote areas, also if there is large community transmission, it will help us speed up the turnaround time," said Anna Maalsen.
In places like Kiunga near Ok Tedi gold mine - where hundreds of infections have been recorded - WHO and health department officials recently recommended community-based testing.
In Port Moresby, health authorities have already started community-based testing in settlements.
"We will have two teams per districts that go out to communities" Dr Nou said.
But Dr Nou and his team believe changing people's perceptions remains the biggest challenge.
"With the improved technology with the faster turnaround time that might help to alleviate some of the negativity and we might see more people coming in for sampling and testing," he said.
"We have faced instances where the community has reacted violently to our workers who have gone out to the community and tried to sample, we've actually been stoned and chased."
Papua New Guinea health authorities are ramping up their testing requirements, issuing new measures that make it compulsory for hospitals to test patients within 24 hours who have respiratory illnesses, including pneumonia.
They are also asking hospitals and clinics in Port Moresby to take tests for people with temperatures higher than 38C.
A national survey is being carried out to help authorities better understand people's knowledge about the virus and their perceptions of it to better deliver safety messages.



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