NZ Govt announces Zika aid for Pacific Islands

Research Associate, Karen Lee of Agency for Science Technology and Research's (A*STAR) Experimental Therapeutics Centre prepares a reaction mix to be tested with the Zika virus diagnostic test kit at their laboratory in Singapore, February 10, 2016. A*STAR and Singapore's Tan Tock Seng Hospital are collaborating to equip an existing diagnostic test kit with the capability to detect the Zika virus. If preliminary results are successful, the kits could be distributed to hospitals by the end of March in preparation for any outbreaks in Singapore, according to local media. REUTERS/Edgar Su - RTX26AFK

The New Zealand Government has announced it will be giving $500,000 to help Pacific Islands battling the Zika virus.

Foreign Minister Murray McCully says $250,000 of that money will go to the World Health Organisation's Pacific Zika Action Plan while the rest will be given to "enable countries in the region to respond rapidly if required".

"With the Zika virus now confirmed in a number of Pacific countries, New Zealand is committed to helping limit the impact and spread of the virus in the region," says Mr McCully.

"Our package of support is targeted at prevention and detection measures and builds on our existing support for improving health outcomes in the region.

"We will continue to monitor the global and the regional situation closely and keep the need for further assistance under review."

Yesterday the Tongan government issued an official warning over Zika, advising women to avoid getting pregnant while attempts to contain the mosquito-borne virus are underway.

Tonga and other Pacific Islands are struggling to fight the virus, facing a lack of insecticide spray machines, chemicals, staff and transport.

There are hundreds of suspected cases of Zika in Tonga, with three pregnant women believed to have the virus.

Zika is currently in more than 20 countries and has been linked to thousands of birth defects in Brazil.

Australia has also contributed $500,000 to help fight the virus in the Pacific.