Rapid antigen tests have arrived, to be used in 2 pilots

Source: 1News

A total of 100,000 rapid antigen test kits arrived in New Zealand on Wednesday and will be used in two pilots.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield made the announcement during Thursday afternoon's Covid-19 update.

The first pilot will involve patients arriving at Middlemore Hospital's emergency department. 

Swabs will be taken from people who are having swabs taken for laboratory PCR testing and who consent to an additional sample being taken, Bloomfield outlined.

It requires another swab at the front of the nose, he explained.

"This will help assess the accuracy and usefulness of the tests in this setting and how it can be operationalised, as well as if someone is positive, give an early indication."

The second pilot will be rolled out as part of Reconnecting New Zealanders.

"Details of that pilot are still being worked through," Bloomfield said.

"These tests are being piloted to help work out now how we best use them in future to help identify new infections, support outbreak investigations through screening and monitor disease trends."

The news comes with mobile testing teams going bed-to-bed at the hospital offering tests to all patients staying there, even asymptomatic ones.

They will do the same for new patients.

A stock image of a rapid antigen test.

Last week, five Covid-19 cases were treated at the hospital with no idea they had the virus until they were tested there.

Bloomfield also revealed another asymptomatic person who presented to the hospital was among the 13 new community cases on Thursday.

They had been swabbed as part of wider testing at the hospital.

National had been calling for rapid antigen testing to be introduced in New Zealand, with its Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop saying they "have their place", particularly at the border.

However, experts differ on their effectiveness.

Immunologist Dr James Ussher said there was not a "huge role" for them at the moment, but New South Wales epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws recommended New Zelaand should add rapid-antigen testing to its Covid-19 testing programme to help people like truckies who need to travel across the Auckland border.

A truck driver is also among the 13 new community cases on Thursday.