If you are symptomatic or a household contact, you can now order rapid antigen tests (RATs) through the newly launched RAT requester site – requestrats.covid19.health.nz.
Acting group manager of Covid-19 testing and supply, Jo Pugh, said it’s one of a range of ways the government can make 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 said.
On top of the 15 million that arrived last week, 2.6 million RATs arrived on Tuesday, followed by a delivery of 5.1 million RATs on Wednesday.
“These new RATs are flowing through the supply chain and into collection sites where they can be accessed by anyone assessed as needing one,” said Pugh.
“There are 146 collection sites, 106 testing centres and 21 providers supporting our priority population groups nationwide.”
“And 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.
“The ability to place an order online ensures that the process is smoother when people go to collect them. It also means that the whole whānau 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.”
She said people can still access free RATs without an order via community testing centres – but only for an eligible individual.
“RATs are also available for purchase in some retail stores now for people who are not unwell, or household contacts, but want a RAT for other reasons,” Pugh said.
“We want to make sure that getting tested is as easy as possible for people – it is an important part of our strategy to slow the spread of the virus to keep the pressure off hospitals.
“The website also contains features to prevent people from ordering too many RATs to ensure that everyone who needs one can get one. These include order limits by address and phone number.”
Pugh said GPs will also be using RATs as part of clinical consultations, where appropriate. They will not generally be distributing to the public outside this regime.
By the end of March, they expect to build up the number of places where RATs 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 to order them.
“The tool is a timely initiative following large shipments of RATs into the country,” said Pugh.
“In the past seven days, more than 7.7 million RATs have been dispatched from our central supply. And DHBs are working hard to push them out to the system.
“Increased use of RATs will ease some of the pressure on our laboratories over the next three to six weeks, while helping to ensure critical services and supply chains remain operational, our most vulnerable communities are protected and our economy keeps moving.”