The Government has secured an additional 36 million rapid antigen tests (RATs), Associate Health Minister, Ayesha Verrall announced today.
The Minister said the RATs would help New Zealand through a widespread Omicron outbreak in the coming months.
“Last week and over the weekend the Government has been in contact with a variety of rapid antigen test manufacturers. Those efforts have resulted in securing an additional 36 million tests for delivery over the next two months which corresponds with a predicted rise in Omicron cases,” Dr Verrall said.
“These additional 36 million tests are on top of the 16.9 million orders already confirmed for delivery in February. Along with the 5.1 million tests already in the country, New Zealanders will have access to over 55 million rapid antigen tests in the coming two months.”
She said a total of 123 million rapid antigen tests have been ordered through to June, which would allow for regular and widespread testing to occur.
“Modelling on the use of rapid antigen tests through the outbreak suggests that during the peak we may be using as many as nine million RATs a week which is equivalent to testing a quarter of New Zealand every day, or all of New Zealand twice a week,” the Minister said.
“That scale of testing will go a long way to reducing the risk of an infected person going to work and infecting others, and will help with keeping critical services and supply chains open and moving.”
In the past week, two more types of rapid antigen test have been approved for use in New Zealand, bringing the total number to 11, with several more going through the approval process.
The Ministry of Health and ESR continue to only approve tests that meet a very high threshold for quality to reduce the number of false positives and negatives, Dr Verrall said.
“Many of the RATs will be used to implement our ‘test to return’ policy for asymptomatic critical workers so our hospitals, supermarkets and other services that keep the country running can continue operating.”
“The Government can also confirm today that one of the major suppliers of tests, Abbott, has corresponded with the Ministry of Health confirming that no tests ordered by the private sector prior to the Government’s largest order in January have been used to fill Government orders.
“There is significant global supply constraint at the moment so the Government is working alongside business to assist with ensuring orders are met. Some suppliers have continued to meet all their private sector orders while others have been forced to prioritise. The Government is actively working with suppliers to support the private sector get access to RATs in a competitive global market.
“If businesses can find an approved supply of RATs and they can import them, there is nothing stopping businesses from using these tests.
“The use and supply of RATs will continue to be prioritised to ensure we are protecting the vulnerable and to enable asymptomatic critical workers to return to work. These additional supplies will go a long way to ensuring those who most need a test can access one,” Dr Verrall said.