World Health Organisation (WHO), in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), donated cartridges used in GeneXpert machines for COVID-19 testing to Maldives on Monday night.
The GeneXpert cartridges were handed over by WHO Representative to Maldives Dr Arvind Mathur, and received on behalf of the Maldivian government by Minister of Health Abdulla Ameen at a special ceremony held at the National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC).
According to the health ministry, the GeneXpert cartridges will be used to commence testing for COVID-19 in six more atolls across the country:
- Shaviyani Atoll Hospital in Funadhoo, Shaviyani Atoll
- Ungoofaaru Regional Hospital in Ungoofaaru, Raa Atoll
- Baa Atoll Hospital in Eydhafushi, Baa Atoll
- Gan Regional Hospital in Gan, Laamu Atoll
- Gaafu Alif Atoll Hospital in Villingili, Gaafu Alif Atoll Atoll
- Dr Abdul Samad Memorial Hospital in Thinadhoo, Gaafu Dhaalu's
With this development, total nine regions across the country are being provided with the equipment and capability to test for the coronavirus, including hospitals in the capital Greater Male' Region. On June 21, Addu Equatorial Hospital (AEH) in Seenu Atoll became the first hospital outside of the capital to conduct COVID-19 testing, while Kulhudhuffushi Regional Hospital in Haa Dhaalu Atoll is also now prepared to commence testing, per the health ministry.
Speaking at the ceremony, Health Minister Ameen conveyed his gratitude to WHO for its continued support towards Maldives' COVID-19 response. Noting that the organisation extended its assistance from the earliest days of the pandemic by providing technical support, training for health workers and raising awareness, Ameen hailed WHO's regional office and WHO Maldives for making Maldives one of the first countries in the region able to test for the coronavirus.
He also thanked UNDP Maldives for its successful efforts in procuring GeneXpert cartridges for Maldives amid high global demand for the equipment.
Dr Arvind Mathur hailed WHO's successful collaboration with UNDP Maldives, and declared that WHO was privileged to continue supporting the government of Maldives in expanding its capacity to test for COVID-19.
Noting that GeneXpert machines could yield results for COVID-19 tests within 45 minutes to an hour, he expressed confidence that the donation would contribute greatly for the country's coronavirus response.
UNDP Resident Representative to Maldives Akiko Fujii declared that UNDP was pleased to support WHO in procuring the supplies for atoll hospitals.
"I commend the government's extensive efforts in saving people's lives and protecting their health during such unprecedented circumstances", she said, adding that it was critically important to continue to mitigate and control the health risk as the Maldivian economy reopens.
Prior to the donation of GeneXpert cartridges, WHO gifted total 41,000 testing kits for COVID-19 to the Maldives.
In addition to testing kits and PPE, the WHO has extended notable support to Maldives in the COVID-19 response, in the form of technical assistance, arrangements to conduct tests for the coronavirus in various regions of the country, and procuring aid from other organisations for Maldives.
Maldives presently has a total of 2,337 confirmed cases, out of which 397 are active cases of COVID-19. Thus far, the country records 1,927 recoveries and eight fatalities.
On March 12, WHO classified the spread of COVID-19 as a global pandemic. To date, the new strain of novel coronavirus has infected over 10.3 million people and claimed over 505,900 lives around the world. However, out of those infected, more than 5.6 million people have recovered.