Thursday, April 25, 2024

RATs to spread to remote areas

The Government has launched a new targeted rural service of rapid antigen tests for those who live in remote rural areas.

“Now that the purpose of testing has shifted away from trying to find every case, RATs provide intelligence on the spread and size of the outbreak, alert people to the support available to them and help bring a sense of normality to people’s lives,” said Minister for COVID-19 Response, Chris Hipkins.

“More than 95% of New Zealanders are within a 20 minute drive of a RAT access point. But we need to make sure that the 250,000 who live remotely are also able to access testing easily,” he said.

Associate Minister for COVID-19 Response, Ayesha Verrall said DHBs already had initiatives underway to reach their rural communities.

“The service launched this week aims to connect households up with those initiatives,” she said.

“If there are no existing initiatives in the area, then the RATs will be couriered directly to the household.”

Examples of DHB led initiatives include:

  • Whanganui DHB has distributed RATs via jetboats up the river and via stock trucks travelling around the region;
  • West Coast DHB’s COVID-19 vaccination team who travel to remote areas have a stock of RATs onboard and are distributing RATs to those who meet the criteria;
  • South Canterbury has initiated a proactive distribution of RATs to the high-country stations in their region.

“A national Māori-led distribution channel has grown in size to 1000 community partners which include Māori health, social and disability providers, Te Kura Kaupapa Māori, Te Kohanga Reo, marae and most vulnerable Māori,” Dr Verrall said.

To date, this Māori-led distribution channel has been able to distribute nearly seven million RATs and 95.4% of Māori are within the 20-minute drive metric, she said.

This channel is also working alongside DHBs and the Ministry of Health to ensure Pasifika, other ethnic communities and the health and disability sector have equitable access to RATs.

There are 31.5 million RATs currently in stock and a further 48.4 million confirmed for delivery over the next four weeks.

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