COVID-19 Protection Framework supported by new testing and contact tracing strategy

26 November, 2021

A new testing and tracing strategy announced by the Government will provide more ways to test people with faster results, providing greater certainty, reassurance and less disruption to our everyday lives. A new national testing strategy will provide better protection for high-risk groups as New Zealand transitions to the COVID-19 Protection Framework.

When pursuing an elimination strategy, we relied on highly sensitive PCR tests because the cost of missing a case was too high. With more and more New Zealanders gaining protection through vaccinations, we can now introduce a wider range of routine testing options that provide other benefits such as accessibility, convenience, and speed.

Nasopharyngeal PCR tests will continue to be used as the primary diagnostic test, but this will be supplemented by saliva-based PCR testing, rapid antigen testing and rapid PCR tests.

From 1 December 2021, businesses will be able to directly source from authorised suppliers approved rapid antigen tests for use within their workforce. These tests will be more widely used across the health system, including aged residential care.

Rapid antigen tests will also be available to the general public at pharmacies from 15 December 2021, with tests to be administered under the supervision of pharmacy staff. A PCR test will be required to confirm any positive results. Under the new traffic light system, in regions at Red and Orange there will be a focus on symptomatic testing and surveillance testing in high-risk settings.

Regions at Green will see a greater focus on surveillance testing, to quickly find any new clusters of cases.

Targeted testing will provide greater capacity for laboratories to process priority testing as part of our efforts to protect vulnerable and high-risk communities. Work is underway to expand capacity to 60,000 PCR tests per day by early next year.

MBIE Rapid antigen testing trial

Work continues with MBIE to review and evaluate findings from a Rapid antigen testing trial with 29 businesses. Businesses have provided incredible insight into the wider roll out of RATs. Their openness in sharing their learning has helped enormously with shaping wider roll out to businesses and in the community.

We will continue to engage with business to apply the learnings from the trial to inform wider rollout to businesses and in the community. This will be vital in the development of protocols where there are positive tests to support business continuity.

Documentation is being developed to support businesses on the processes for the use of rapid antigen testing and guidance to help them make decisions on whether it’s appropriate for use for them.

Read the press release here

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