Wellington: The New Zealand government has secured the delivery of enough rapid antigen tests (RATs) to help the country in its fight against the ongoing Omicron outbreak, Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said on Tuesday.
Over the last week, 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, Verrall said in a statement.
These additional 36 million tests are on top of the 16.9 million orders already confirmed for delivery in February, Xinhua news agency reported citing the Minister as saying
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 added.
A total of 123 million rapid antigen tests have been ordered through to June, which will 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,” Verrall 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, she said, adding the Ministry of Health and the Institute of Environmental Science and Research continue to only approve tests that meet a very high threshold for quality to reduce the number of false positives and negatives.
“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,” Verrall said.
The Ministry has been placing regular orders of RATs since October last year, and the quantities ordered have increased substantially since early December.