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National is calling on the Government to widen its Covid-19 testing criteria so that anyone displaying clear symptoms can be tested, Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.

“The rigid restrictions we have here are preventing people with Covid-19 symptoms from being tested, and are potentially hiding a much bigger coronavirus problem in New Zealand.

“The Government is only allowing tests for people with symptoms who have returned from a small list of countries or can prove close contact with a confirmed case.

“This is too restrictive and too many concerned Kiwis with coronavirus symptoms are being denied tests. There is no reason why tests should be rationed in New Zealand.

“The case of education worker Pippa Biggs, highlighted in media reports this morning, is troubling. She says she and her three children have symptoms that ‘tick the boxes’ for coronavirus but she can’t get tested because she can’t prove contact with a confirmed case.

“While news of only five Covid-19 cases and no community outbreak here is positive, our concern is that a lack of testing is the real reason New Zealand has so few confirmed cases.

“New Zealand’s test rate is shockingly low compared to other countries, at only 70 tests per million. Countries that have high numbers of confirmed cases also have much more comprehensive testing than we do.

“Italy is performing more than 800 tests per million people and the UK is performing almost 500 tests per million.

“Other countries are proactively testing for Covid-19 despite having few confirmed cases. We need to close the barn door on this virus before the horse bolts.

Examples of people who would fall foul of New Zealand’s current testing criteria include:

  • A person entering New Zealand from Germany (where there are 2000+ cases) who has a strong cough.
  • A person who sat next to a confirmed case on a 5-hour flight but is not displaying symptoms.
  • Someone who was in hospital with a probable case and now has a fever.

“Testing for Covid-19 in New Zealand also appears confused. Pippa Biggs reportedly can’t get tested, yet NZ First MP Tracey Martin will be despite reportedly showing no symptoms.

“While we support Tracey Martin getting tested, and hope she remains in good health, the apparent inconsistency in who can access coronavirus tests is a worry.

“No expense should be spared in the fight against coronavirus. The Government must ensure all Kiwis are tested if they have symptoms.”

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