7 Oct 2021

New Covid-19 testing regime to be announced today

6:30 am on 7 October 2021

The government will today announce how it plans to roll-out a much wider, "rigourous" Covid-19 testing regime.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern during the daily 1pm Covid-19 update on 5 October 2021.

Jacinda Ardern says the new regime will be central to the strategy going forward. Photo: Pool / Stuff / Robert Kitchin

A report was delivered to Cabinet on Monday, from the University of Otago's professor David Murdoch, who leads the government's testing advisory group.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said professor Murdoch's work will " form the basis of a new, rigourous testing regime that will be central to our strategy to control the virus, going forward".

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins has signalled that rapid antigen testing will play a much bigger role in the new regime.

Hipkins said PCR testing of saliva or nasopharyngeal swabs remains the best way the identify early cases of Covid-19, but it only takes 15 minutes to process a rapid antigen test.

"One of the reasons why we have been reluctant in New Zealand is that they are good at detecting acute infection, but detecting early onset infection, not so good," he said.

These tests could give people false comfort, he said.

However, Hipkins added that rapid-antigen testing has been used during this outbreak and will become a bigger part of the country's Covid-19 response "fairly soon".

Twenty-five of the biggest companies, such as Mainfreight and Foodstuffs have called for emergency approval to import and use rapid Covid-19 antigen tests at critical work sites.

The wanted to jointly import 370,000 rapid antigen tests, to be introduced on work sites around the country within the next week, but needed the government's permission to do so.

However, Hipkins said that will be unlikely within the next week.

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