4 Mar 2022

RAT race on amid growing Omicron outbreak

From Checkpoint, 5:14 pm on 4 March 2022

A RAT race is on as tens of thousands of people try to source rapid antigen tests amid the growing Omicron outbreak.

Covid-19 antigen tests underway with the buffer solution being dripped into the test area of the results strip

Photo: 123RF

RATs are now the primary testing method and kits are available at retail outlets, or free through district health boards for those who are symptomatic or close contacts.

But with reports of some people onselling the tests - and community testing centres dealing with aggressive behaviour from people demanding kits - health officials are reminding people that there are plenty to go around.

At Chemist Warehouse in Whangārei, staff could not get kits on shelves fast enough.

At $44.95 for five tests, people have been stocking up - but one woman RNZ spoke to said the cost made access tricky.

She had wanted to buy online from the Warehouse for $31.99 but they were sold out. "On a pension it's hard," she said.

More kits are coming and Foodstuffs confirmed today that more than a million RATs are going to New World, Pak'nSave and Four Square stores, as well as 250 businesses and some charities.

They will be on sale at cost price: the Orient Gene Rapid Covid-19 Self Test 5-pack ($32.99 per pack) and the Ecotest Covid-19 Rapid Antigen Nasal Pen 2-pack ($19.99 per pack).

Northern Region Health Co-ordination Centre chief clinical officer Andrew Old today confirmed there were 150,000 kits distributed in Auckland yesterday.

But he reiterated there were plenty to go around, with 9.3 million tests in stock plus 8.8m dispatched over the past week and nearly 100m more coming into the country.

"If you don't need to get tested, then don't get tested but right at the moment we're confident we have enough supply for people who need it."

Capital and Coast DHB today reported widespread abusive behaviour from those waiting for rapid antigen tests and requested people remain patient and calm.

Elsewhere there are reports of people onselling free RATs.

In response, Dr Andrew Old encouraged everyone to do the right thing during the Omicron outbreak.

"Tests are being provided free at the moment for those who need it, they are provided through retail outlets across the country for people who are not symptomatic and not household contacts but want that certainty, so really just encourage people to not take advantage of the system."

Dr Old also reiterated the need for people to log their test results in MyCovid, so they can get the support they need if they are sick.