New Zealand businesses get the green light to import 300,000 rapid COVID-19 tests

Thursday, 14 October 2021

Some of the country’s largest companies will be able to introduce rapid antigen testing to their critical worksites this month after the Government responded to calls from the business community to allow rapid tests to be imported into New Zealand.

More than 25 companies sought emergency approval from the Government last week to allow rapid surveillance testing to get underway in New Zealand, providing an additional layer of health protection for employees and helping to ensure workplace continuity.

Today the coalition of businesses confirmed a $3 million-plus order for 300,000 Abbott PanBio COVID-19 Ag Rapid tests to be imported into New Zealand, after the Government, the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) and the Ministry of Health gave their support for trials to begin.

This is all about businesses wanting to do the best they can to protect the health and safety of their teams, and in an environment where you have community transmission of the virus, rapid testing becomes a critical part of that,” said Auckland Airport Chief Executive Adrian Littlewood."

Rapid antigen tests are also key to ensuring the continuity of critical worksites, those that provide the essential services and products that keep our country going.

We thank the Government, MBIE and the Ministry of Health for their quick response to our request to import rapid antigen tests and we look forward to working with them as our essential workforces start using the tests in the days ahead,” Mr Littlewood said.

The Abbott PanBio COVID-19 Ag Rapid tests, procured via medical supplies wholesaler and distributor EBOS Healthcare, are expected to start arriving New Zealand from 21 October 2021 and will be distributed to the businesses taking part. Funded by participating companies, the tests will be trialled across a range of sectors including manufacturing, primary industries, energy, food production, telecommunications, freight, aviation and aged care.

Auckland Airport plans to introduce the rapid tests for a range of operational employees, but will initially focus on daily testing for essential employees working on critical infrastructure projects, such as airfield safety officers overseeing upgrades to the fuel pipeline on the airfield.

Mainfreight Managing Director Don Braid said: “Mainfreight has successfully introduced rapid testing in worksites in 26 countries around the world and we intend to replicate regular testing across our 83 sites in New Zealand, in the interests of our people and customers.

We would like to acknowledge the way businesses have come together to work with Government Ministers, the Ministry of Health, and in particular MBIE to make this happen.”

Foodstuffs North Island Chief Executive Officer Chris Quin said: “At a time where the challenge of Delta in New Zealand is greater than ever, it’s been renewing for everyone to be able to work together across government and business to enable this additional testing solution. We need to do everything we can and this is a positive step in helping to further look after our teams in stores and in the supply chain New Zealanders depend on.”

Rapid antigen tests are used widely overseas as an additional tool to curb the spread of COVID-19, providing on-the spot results in minutes to help identify chains of transmission, provide reassurance to employees and ensure workplace continuity.

The tests, which will not take the place of existing PCR tests for border workers or those who are experiencing symptoms, provide results in about 15 minutes, unlike PCR tests which can take days to return results. They generally cost about $10 to $15 each.

Genesis Chief Executive Officer Marc England said rapid antigen tests would boost protection of staff at power plants such as Huntly, which plays a critical role in New Zealand’s energy network.

The immediacy of rapid antigen testing will add another layer of protection to the saliva testing we already have in place. Huntly’s specialised workforce play an essential role in New Zealand’s energy security; antigen testing will give our staff reasonable confidence before they step on site that they are safe to do so, and ensure the plant remains operational.”

The companies taking part in the trial include: 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.