Government told saliva testing should be main test

The Government has been told by its own independent expert advisory group that there is a ‘strong case for adopting saliva testing as the main method for testing in New Zealand’, yet it’s still done nothing about it, National’s COVID-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

New documents released under the Official Information Act show that the COVID-19 Independent Continuous Review, Improvement and Advice Group, chaired by Sir Brian Roche, has once again recommended saliva testing to the Government, even saying it should be the main test for COVID-19 in NZ.

Mr Bishop says Sir Brian Roche’s September 2020 report said ‘all efforts’ should be made to introduce saliva testing as soon as possible.

“The new documents paint a sad and sorry saga of this Government’s failure to roll out saliva testing.

“Back in August last year the Government claimed saliva testing as a routine option for surveillance testing was over a month away.

“New advice shows that even in January this year the Ministry of Health recommended to the Government to approve voluntary saliva testing in quarantine facilities, saying this would increase weekly testing to 4000 per week.

“Incredibly though, fewer than 400 saliva tests have been carried out in total since then.

“Ten months after the Roche/Simpson report we still don’t have a timeline for saliva testing to be rolled out nationally even though leaked emails show border workers desperately want it.

“Even the Ministry accepts that more frequent saliva testing would mean picking up COVID-19 cases earlier, increasing the likelihood of preventing an outbreak.

“It’s not good enough for the Government to blame officials and throw their hands up in frustration. Ministers must own this epic fail. They’re in charge and they have to take responsibility.

“Saliva testing has an important role to play in keeping our border secure. The Government should’ve sorted this mess out months ago.”

You can find the Official Information Act (OIA) request response here. And the supporting documents here