Wary of Covid-19 antibody testing kits, Government considers importation ban

Source: 1News

Ministry of Health officials say they have no plans to use antibody testing kits for Covid-19 in New Zealand at the moment, and are even considering restricting their importation based on a lack of evidence.

While the current testing procedure looks for the virus itself, the rapid blood tests instead look for antibodies, which are formed when your immune system fights back against a bug.

However, there's been a lack of evidence proving their effectiveness in diagnosing Covid-19.

The World Health Organisation is currently warning people to be sceptical.

"Nobody is sure whether someone with antibodies is fully protected against having the disease or being exposed again," Dr Mike Ryan said today.

"Plus some of the tests may have issues of sensitivity. They may give a false result."

In New Zealand, authorities are casting an equally suspicious eye over the test.

Ministry of Health's chief science advisor, Dr Ian Town, told 1 NEWS they're looking at ways to restrict the importation and sale of the tests under the Medicines Act.

"The Ministry is aware of many such tests that are in development but notes with concern that these have not proven reliable or useful in several countries to date," he says.

More than 70 tests are being reviewed by New Zealand's ESR scientists, but "many have already been discounted because they are not reliable".

"At this stage the ministry has no plans to deploy rapid antibody kits for the diagnosis of Covid-19 until more information about their reliability has been developed," Dr Town says.

"The ministry understands that companies want to help in efforts to fight Covid-19 in New Zealand but this is best achieved through a collaborative effort to procure the right equipment and supplies."

Generally, people without symptoms or risk factors shouldn't be tested for Covid-19 unless part of a structured surveillance programme, such as the voluntary testing carried out at Queenstown, Waikato, Canterbury and Auckland supermarkets, he says.

But if you do have symptoms, he encourages people to get tested and contact their GP or Heathline to arrange it.

"We have not reached our daily testing capacity and we are continuing to increase it."

More than 79,000 Covid-19 have been carried out so far, with a record high of 4677 being processed yesterday alone.

According to the Ministry of Health, there are still almost 100,000 kits in stock and available for use.