8 Sep 2021

Judith Collins reiterates call for use of rapid antigen testing

10:38 am on 8 September 2021

National Party leader Judith Collins has repeated her party's call for the use of rapid antigen testing, saying it would have been useful in the case of the Middlemore patient who has Covid-19.

Judith Collins

National Party leader Judith Collins. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Four wards are closed, patients are being isolated, and 29 staff have been stood down for two weeks after a patient admitted on Saturday tested positive.

National says rapid antigen tests for Covid-19 are widely used overseas, and though less accurate than nasal and saliva-based PCR tests, have the advantage of a fast result.

Judith Collins told Morning Report an antigen test result in 15 minutes was significantly better than "waiting for days" to find out if someone has Covid-19.

"It would have been really helpful for that patient in Middlemore who turned out to have Covid, if they had tested him before he was put into a ward.

"That's the sort of way it could be used really easily - and also when you're dealing with truck drivers moving out of Auckland."

She said the country needs all the tools available including greater use of saliva testing.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said yesterday the government was ramping up saliva testing and a contract with an additional provider was being finalised.

More than 830 border workers have now signed up for saliva testing, he said, and it will become available to more people over time.

Bloomfield said antigen testing was more useful when the virus was already in the community, but with the elimination strategy it was not appropriate because more accurate testing is needed to find every single case.

Collins said she supported making a priority of increasing Māori and Pasfika vaccination rates.

"When we have vaccinations lower in some communities than others, just get them all done," she said.

"Every group needs to be vaccinated. The virus does not distinguish between people, it just gets through communities, and particularly where there's large groups of people together, and particularly where there's overcrowding in homes or anything like that it's going to be much worse.

"We don't have a problem with priorities on this - we just need as many people we can to be vaccinated."

Collins said moving to level 2 for areas outside Auckland, even with extra rules, was significantly better for businesses but the supply of building and other materials remained a concern.

"One of the problems we've got is that so much of materials, whether it's building materials or anything else, comes through Auckland and so there's builders all round the country even in level 2 saying we can't get our products out of Auckland.

"That's why we've really to to sort out the Auckland situation as fast as possible."

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will today spell out how some Auckland factories can restart under level 4.

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