Manukau Courier

RATs to all seeking a test

- MELANIE EARLEY

Aucklander­s seeking a Covid-19 test are being given rapid antigen tests (RATs) to deal with the rising demand.

Director-General of Health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield said as the Omicron outbreak continues to grow, more people will have Covid-19, and more people will be close contacts.

Over the past few days demand for PCR tests has grown, and many community testing centres were experienci­ng long queues and delays.

Some people in Auckland and the Waikato have been waiting more than five days for their test results.

The Northern Region Health Co-ordination Centre said on Friday that PCR test results could take up to five days, however the delay has lengthened since then.

On Monday, RATs became available at testing centres in Auckland for critical workers and people who met certain criteria, but Bloomfield said from yesterday all testing in Auckland would be done via a RAT.

On Tuesday, RATs were also rolled out to testing centres in Waikato, Bay of Plenty, and Southern and would be available across the country by the end of the week.

The new testing regime for Auckland meant people with symptoms and asymptomat­ic close contacts who had a positive RAT would be considered a probable case and wouldn’t need to be verified by PCR.

Bloomfield said this would ‘‘relieve pressure on the system’’, he said while there were ‘‘significan­t’’ global supply constraint­s on RATs, New Zealand had secured enough to help through the outbreak in the coming months.

RATs are less accurate than lab-based PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests, but can be completed by individual­s at home or in a pharmacy in a matter of minutes, making them useful for widespread surveillan­ce testing once an outbreak gets larger.

There are currently 7.3 million RATs in the system with around 22.5 million expected by the end of February.

The Ministry of Health announced last week that more than three million RATs had been distribute­d across New Zealand for critical workers, and those in the community who were most at risk from the effects of Covid.

The RATs have been sent to sites including DHBs, healthcare and emergency service workforces, testing facilities, GP clinics, aged care facilities and community health providers, a Ministry of Health spokesman said.

‘‘The Ministry has also provided RATs directly to organisati­ons, including businesses that are currently affected by outbreaks, to make it easier to test their workers who are contacts and keep their organisati­ons running.’’

Currently, the only people who need to be tested for Covid19 are those who:

■ Have Covid-19 symptoms – such as a fever, new or worsening cough, sore or scratchy throat, shortness of breath, sneezing and running nose

■ Have had a positive RAT

■ Are required to have a test under a mandatory testing order or have been told to get a test by a health official

■ Are a household contact on a 10-day isolation pathway getting tested on day 8 (day 3 testing is no longer required in Auckland)

■ Non-household close contacts getting tested on day 5.

Last week, more than 22,000 PCR tests were processed in Auckland, a similar number to when the city was in alert level 4 during the Delta outbreak.

 ?? ?? Rapid antigen tests will be given out to Aucklander­s needing a Covid test.
Testing centres across the country have been experienci­ng delays due to increased testing.
Rapid antigen tests will be given out to Aucklander­s needing a Covid test. Testing centres across the country have been experienci­ng delays due to increased testing.

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