The COVID-19 laboratory response in Timor-Leste: A story of collaboration

Nevio Sarmento, Endang Soares da Silva, Ismael Barreto, João C. Ximenes, Julia M. Angelina, Dircia M. Correia, Silvia M. Babo, Ari Jayanti P. Tilman, Antonio Salles de Sousa, Elisabeth Hornay, Lourenço C. Ico, Filipe de Neri Machado, Maria Varela Niha, Susan Ballard, Chantel Lin, Benjamin Howden, Rob Baird, Johanna Wapling, Lucsendar Alves, Tessa OakleyIan Marr, Anthony D.K. Draper, Paul Arkell, Heidi Smith-Vaughan, Nicholas S.S. Fancourt, Jennifer Yan, Joshua R. Francis

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Timor-Leste is a small nation of 1.3 million people which shares a land border with Indonesia and is 550 km from Darwin, Australia. It is one of the poorest nations in Asia. The National Health Laboratory (NHL) and its network of smaller laboratories in Timor-Leste had limited capacity to perform molecular diagnostic testing before the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic began. With the support of international development partners, the NHL rapidly expanded its molecular testing service. From March 2020 to February 2022, over 200,000 molecular tests were performed; COVID-19 testing sites were established in hospital and community health center laboratories and all 13 municipalities, and the number of scientists and technicians at the molecular diagnostic laboratory at the NHL increased from five to 28 between 2019 and 2022. Molecular diagnostic testing for COVID-19 was successfully established at the NHL and in the municipalities. The molecular diagnostic laboratory at NHL is now equipped to respond to not only large-scale COVID-19 testing but also laboratory detection of other infectious diseases, preparing Timor-Leste for future outbreaks or pandemics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100150
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalThe Lancet Regional Health - Southeast Asia
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


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