25 businesses to import, use rapid antigen tests

Source: 1News

A "coalition" of around 25 businesses have been given the green light to use rapid antigen tests. 

Rapid antigen testing (file photo).

Associate Health Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall made the announcement on Thursday, after earlier saying they would be trialled in workplaces .

Rapid antigen tests are similar to a pregnancy test which has with two blue lines displayed for a positive result. The nasal swab tests can return results in about 15 minutes.

Verrall explained the businesses had been granted an exemption by Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield to import and use the tests.

An order for 300,000 tests had been approved, to the tune of more than $3 million. 

The tests to be used are the nasal Panbio Covid-19 Ag Rapid Test, procured via medical supplies wholesaler and distributor EBOS Healthcare.

They are expected to start arriving from October 21.

"Some of the businesses in this group are already using rapid antigen tests successfully overseas, and their international experience has helped develop this New Zealand scheme," Verrall said.

"We will continue to refine, learn and iron out any issues in this first phase, before we look at how this testing can be rolled out as part of our wider Covid-19 response."

Described as a "coalition of businesses", Verrall said the businesses involved covered industries including manufacturing, energy, food production, telecommunications, freight, aviation and aged care. 

A charter had been signed between them, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employement (MBIE) and the Ministry of Health to share their insights. 

This would inform any wider roll-out to other work sites. 

"This is about supporting businesses to increase levels of testing amongst their workers, harnessing innovation, and supporting the Covid-19 economic recovery," Verrall said.

"Our priority is to safeguard the health and wellbeing of all New Zealanders. We are committed to engaging and working constructively with businesses and communities, as we continue to swiftly identify and respond to cases of Covid-19."

Outgoing Auckland Airport CEO Adrian Littlewood welcomed the Government's response to its request. 

"Businesses are focused on protecting the health and safety of their teams, as well as ensuring their critical work sites can continue to operate when there are cases of the virus in the community. Rapid testing is a vital added layer of protection to help identify chains of transmission and ensure workplace continuity," he said. 

"We thank the Government, MBIE and the Ministry of Health for their quick response to our request to import rapid antigen tests, and we look forward to working with them as our essential workforces start using the tests in the days ahead."

The companies taking part in the trial are:

  • Mainfreight
  • Foodstuffs North Island
  • Genesis
  • Hynds Pipe Systems
  • Mercury
  • Summerset Group
  • Wellington Airport
  • Christchurch Airport
  • Sky NZ
  • Queenstown Airport
  • Spark
  • Vodafone
  • The Warehouse Group
  • ANZ Bank
  • Contact Energy
  • Fulton Hogan
  • Countdown/Woolworths NZ
  • Fletcher Building
  • Carter Holt Harvey
  • Meridian Energy
  • DHL Express NZ
  • Air NZ
  • Auckland Airport