2 Mar 2022

Covid-19: Minister on PCR testing capacity

From Morning Report, 7:41 am on 2 March 2022

The Covid-19 response minister says he will seek answers as to why the Ministry of Health gave incorrect advice on its testing ability.

The Ministry is under pressure for over-estimating how many Covid-19 PCR tests labs could process, and now there's a backlog of 32,000 tests that are at least five days old.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield told a media conference on Tuesday the ministry had overestimated the amount of capacity labs would have once the Omicron outbreak took off.

"Once the samples were in the lab it's hard to take them out and redistribute them, so we still had capacity across the network but we didn't have the opportunity to redistribute them and probably if we'd started to do that a day or two earlier, then we may still have had a backlog but perhaps not such a big one."

On Wednesday Minister Chris Hipkins told Morning Report the government had been wanting advice on capacity throughout the Omicron outbreak 

"It's certainly something that we have been asking and that we've been getting advice on, all of the machines across the country and all of the people across the country and doing our own manual reconciliation.

"I think we have to rely on the advice that we're getting, clearly the advice that we were getting here didn't tally up with the reality."

Hipkins says he is not satisfied with the information he was given.