Government supports use of Rapid Antigen Testing for businesses

2 December, 2021

The Government has revised their COVID-19 testing strategy and have supported a move towards a minimisation and protection strategy under the new COVID-19 Protection Framework. This new strategy will help Aotearoa New Zealand navigate through the presence of COVID-19 and will aim to keep all New Zealanders safe.

Following completion of the MBIE Business Charter Pilot in November, the Ministry of Health are supporting the rollout of rapid antigen testing (RAT) for the wider business community. This revised strategy will incorporate the use of broader testing technologies which will be made available to the general public from 15 December 2021. This new phase enables businesses to use RATs in the workplace and allows them to source testing kits from approved suppliers.

RAT is used for the purpose of quickly detecting the presence or absence of an antigen, or in this case an active COVID-19 infection. This form of testing provides faster results than existing forms of PCR testing with indicative results provided within about 15 minutes. RAT is also a cost-effective option for businesses. RAT is not intended as a replacement for PCR testing in New Zealand, however, it sits alongside current testing to boost New Zealand’s public health response.

NB. RATs need to be completed under the supervision of a person that has reviewed and understand the instructions provided by suppliers. Training materials are available through supplier’s websites.

To support your use of RAT in the workplace, the following documents are now available:

  • Rapid Antigen Testing: Guide for Businesses
  • RA testing requirements and processes, and
  • Protocols for general staff management following a positive RAT result

Please click here to view these guidance documents.

What you need to know about Rapid Antigen Testing

To effectively test for COVID-19, a RAT requires a higher quantity of virus to be present than other testing methods. This means RATs are less sensitive at detecting positive cases, especially in asymptomatic people, or people at an early stage in their infectious period. If you receive a positive RAT result, a follow-up PCR swab will need to be undertaken by a healthcare professional.

RATs are not as accurate as standard nasal and saliva PCR tests; they are an additional surveillance method to support businesses and people in the community. They are also not a mandatory for business or intended as a replacement for vaccinations.

Next steps

The Ministry of Health will continue to review and adopt innovations in testing technologies, which will include the evaluation of saliva-based RAT kits.

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