Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Call for more RATs community collection sites out east

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Eligible people can collect free Covid-19 rapid antigen tests at a community collection site in Lloyd Elsmore Park, Pakuranga, but it’s the only such site in east Auckland. Times file photo Wayne Martin

There’s just one community collection site in east Auckland where people can collect free rapid antigen tests (RATs) for Covid-19.

That compares to five such sites in South Auckland and four each on the North Shore and in West Auckland.

The sole local site is at Lady Marie Drive in Lloyd Elsmore Park, Pakuranga.

According to the Healthpoint website it’s open 8.30am-4pm seven days a week.

Tests can be ordered and collected at the site by people who have Covid symptoms, are a household contact of a Covid case, critical workers who are household contacts and border workers who are required to be tested under the Required Testing Order.

It appears to have begun distributing RATs after Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown wrote to Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins to say there were no community collection sites in the Pakuranga or Botany electorates.

The nearest sites previously were in Otara and Mount Wellington.

Brown says with the highly transmissible Omicron variant of Covid spreading through the community it’s of the “utmost importance to have easy access to RATs for anyone who needs to get tested”.

“The last thing we need right now is a repeat of the scenes we saw during previous lockdowns where our lone PCR testing site was overwhelmed, ultimately discouraging many people from getting tested,” he says.

“If you have [Covid] symptoms, a RAT is a quick and easy way to determine whether you may have Covid, meaning those who have it can isolate sooner and minimise the spread.”

Ministry of Health acting group manager of Covid-19 testing and supply Jo Pugh says people who are symptomatic or a household contact can order RATs online at www.requestrats.covid19.health.nz.

“It’s one of a range of ways we are making testing more readily available for those who need it.

“We have a good supply of RATs to meet demand during phase three of our Omicron response.”

Pugh says across the country there are 146 RATs collection sites, 106 testing sites, and 21 providers supporting priority population groups.

“With the addition of participating pharmacies and GPs, there are now more than 500 access points for RATs, with additional sites continuing to be opened across the motu (country).

“The ability to place an order online ensures the process is smoother when people go to collect them.

“It also means the whole whanau (family) don’t need to queue up at the testing centre when one person in the household gets sick, because you’ll be able to collect RATs for everyone in your household.”

Pugh says by the end of March the Ministry of Health expects to build up the number of places where the tests are available to 1000 sites around the country, so the majority of New Zealanders can access a free RAT within 20 minutes’ driving distance.

“The Ministry of Health is also exploring options to deliver RATs to those who order them.”

People can order the tests online at www.requestrats.covid19.health.nz or phone 0800 222 478, and select option 3, between 8am-8pm.

Access to a mobile phone is needed to validate the order.

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