Rapid Covid test on way to Aotearoa providing results in 15 minutes

By Te Ao - Māori News

A coalition of businesses has confirmed a $3 million-plus order for 300,000 Abbott PanBio COVID-19 Ag Rapid tests to be imported into New Zealand, after the government, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Ministry of Health gave their support for trials to begin.

Last week, more than 25 companies sought emergency approval from the government to allow rapid surveillance testing to get underway in New Zealand, providing an additional layer of health protection for employees and helping to ensure workplace continuity.

The test is performed on a sample that is taken by swabbing inside someone's nose. The sample can be processed in a laboratory but is frequently analyzed on-site, providing results within about 15 minutes, generally costing about $10-15 each.

“This is all about businesses wanting to do the best they can to protect the health and safety of their teams, and in an environment where you have community transmission of the virus, rapid testing becomes a critical part of that,” Auckland Airport chief executive Adrian Littlewood said.

“Rapid antigen tests are also key to ensuring the continuity of critical worksites, those that provide the essential services and products that keep our country going.”

The tests, procured via medical supplies wholesaler and distributor Ebos Healthcare, are expected to start arriving in New Zealand from October 21 and will be distributed to the businesses taking part.

Wide range of industries

Funded by participating companies, the tests will be trialled across a range of sectors including manufacturing, primary industries, energy, food production, telecommunications, freight, aviation and aged care.

Auckland Airport plans to introduce the rapid tests for a range of operational employees but will initially focus on daily testing for essential employees working on critical infrastructure projects, such as airfield safety officers overseeing upgrades to the fuel pipeline on the airfield. 

Mainfreight managing director Don Braid said: “Mainfreight has successfully introduced rapid testing in worksites in 26 countries around the world and we intend to replicate regular testing across our 83 sites in New Zealand, in the interests of our people and customers."

Genesis chief executive Marc England said rapid antigen tests would boost the protection of staff at power plants such as Huntly, which plays a critical role in New Zealand’s energy network. “The immediacy of rapid antigen testing will add another layer of protection to the saliva testing we already have in place. Huntly’s specialised workforce plays an essential role in New Zealand’s energy security; antigen testing will give our staff reasonable confidence before they step on site that they are safe to do so, and ensure the plant remains operational.”

The companies taking part in the trials 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 and Auckland Airport.