Some of the country’s largest companies have been granted an exemption to import and introduce rapid antigen testing for Covid-19 at construction sites.
A coalition of 25 companies approached the government last week, asking for permission to immediately import the rapid tests.
Associate Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall said the director general of health had authorized companies to import 300,000 rapid antigen tests into the country.
As part of the deal, the group agreed to share ideas to inform any wider deployment of rapid antigen testing at other work sites.
Verrall said companies would use nasal swabs to start.
“Rapid antigenic tests can provide a result in about 15 minutes. But they tend to be less sensitive at detecting cases, so PCR testing will remain the mainstay of Covid-19 testing in most situations. “
The rapid antigen tests will complement other Covid-19 tests used in New Zealand, and vaccinations, to bolster New Zealand’s public health response, Verrall said in a statement.
“As we enter a new phase in our response to Covid-19, with more New Zealanders being protected through vaccination, we can expand the tools we use to find and eradicate the virus “said Verrall.
Abbott PanBio Covid-19 Ag Rapid tests are imported by EBOS Healthcare and will cost around $ 3 million.
They are expected to start arriving in New Zealand from October 21 and will be distributed to participating businesses.
The companies include Auckland Airport, which will initially focus on daily testing for essential employees working on critical infrastructure projects, such as airfield security guards overseeing fuel pipeline upgrades on the airfield, the company said in a statement.
Chief Executive Officer Adrian Littlewood said the testing would help ensure that critical work sites could continue to function if there were any viruses in the community.
“Rapid testing is a vital additional layer of protection to help identify chains of transmission and ensure continuity in the workplace,” he said.
Mainfreight chief executive Don Braid said the company has successfully introduced rapid testing at job sites in 26 countries around the world.
“We intend to repeat regular testing at our 83 sites in New Zealand, for the benefit of our employees and customers.”
Genesis chief executive Marc England said the tests would strengthen the protection of personnel at power plants such as Huntly.
The business coalition covers sectors such as manufacturing, energy, food production, telecommunications, freight, aviation and elderly care.
They signed a charter with MBIE and the Department of Health, committing to work together and share their ideas to inform any wider deployment of rapid antigen testing at other work sites.
Companies participating in the trial: 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.