1 Feb 2022

Watch: Deputy PM speaks to media after post-Cabinet meeting

4:50 pm on 1 February 2022

A total of 123 million rapid antigen tests have been ordered through to June, and the government says it has enough on order to deal with a widespread outbreak.

Watch Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson speak below:

Robertson said the government had secured an additional 36 million rapid antigen tests (RATs) to arrive in the coming months.

In total, New Zealanders will have access to over 50 million RATs in the next two months, he said.

Overall, 123 million RATs are on order.

That is enough rapid antigen tests to deal with a widespread outbreak, he said.

The delivery of an extra 36 million tests, which includes the 22 million announced last week, is on top of the 16.9 million orders already confirmed for delivery in February and 5.1 million tests already in the country.

RATs will slowly become available for the wider public, but initially they will be for essential industries.

Final decisions on allocating RATs will depend on how the outbreak unfolds, but there will be enough to test a quarter of New Zealanders a day or the whole country twice a week, he said.

In a statement, Associate Minister of Health Dr Ayesha Verrall said modelling suggested that during the peak of the Omicron outbreak as many as nine million rapid antigen tests will be used each week.

"That scale of testing will go a long way to reducing the risk of an infected person going to work and infecting others, and will help with keeping critical services and supply chains open and moving," she said.

Two more types of rapid antigen test have been approved for use in New Zealand over the past week, bringing the total number to 11, Verrall said.

She added that one of the major suppliers of tests, Abbott, told the Ministry of Health no tests ordered by the private sector prior to the government's largest order in January had been used to fill government orders.

"Some suppliers have continued to meet all their private sector orders while others have been forced to prioritise. The government is actively working with suppliers to support the private sector get access to RATs in a competitive global market."

If businesses could find an approved supply of RATs and they could import them, there was nothing stopping businesses from using these tests, she said.

The government is also working with businesses to make sure RAT orders are met, Robertson said.

Robertson will release an income insurance document tomorrow, and the government will also give an update on vaccines tomorrow.

He said the government is preparing to move to phase 2 of the Omicron response plan.

Journalist Charlotte Bellis offered MIQ spot

MBIE has offered journalist Charlotte Bellis an MIQ voucher today, Robertson said.

He urged her to take up the place in MIQ available for her.

Robertson said Bellis and her lawyer are considering legal action and he will not comment further.

Bellis, who is pregnant and still in Afghanistan, was declined an emergency MIQ spot. She said yesterday that her MIQ application had been met with "technicalities and confusion" and she had been asked to apply under a different category.

Cabinet discusses border reopening

Cabinet had discussions today about reopening New Zealand's border and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will speak about that on Thursday, Robertson said.

A staged timeline was outlined late last year, but was quickly pushed back because of the risks posed by the Covid-19 Omicron variant.

The latest plan states that from the end of February, vaccinated New Zealanders in Australia, and possibly elsewhere, will be allowed to skip managed isolation and isolate at home.

Meanwhile, the same conditions are set down for most foreigners from the end of April.

Ministers have been reviewing those dates, and RNZ understands Cabinet will finalise, but not announce them, today.

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