From tomorrow morning, people who turn up at Auckland testing sites may be given rapid antigen tests to take home rather than receiving a nasopharyngeal PCR swab, the Ministry of Heath has announced.
The move is to relieve pressure on the PCR testing system, as Auckland testing centres have been overwhelmed in recent days as case numbers increase. Queues have been hours long, with delays of up to five days for test results. The ministry and Auckland DHBs have issued pleas to the public to not show up at testing sites unless they have symptoms, are a close contact or meet other public health criteria.
“We understand that some people may be feeling anxious at this time, but those who have no symptoms of Covid-19 and do not meet any other criteria do not need to be tested and may be turned away from testing services,” said Matt Hannant, director of operations for the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC), in a statement.
Each person who arrives for a test will be screened, and “Those who meet certain criteria will be able to test themselves at home with a RAT to get an indication of whether or not they have Covid-19”, said the NRHCC statement. “Those who test positive will then need to return to a testing centre to get a PCR test.”
As RATs are not as accurate as PCR tests at identifying someone early in their illness, those who receive a negative result may need to have another test if symptoms start to develop, said the ministry.
Rapid antigen tests will initially be available only at Auckland testing sites, but will be rolled out “to other high-need areas in coming days and weeks”.
The ministry said there are currently 7.3 million RATs in the country to support the public health response, “with a continual supply arriving by airfreight”.
For a full list of testing sites nationwide, visit the Healthpoint website.