Just 339 saliva tests in MIQ carried out so far

A mere 339 saliva tests have been carried out in New Zealand’s MIQ facilities since they began in January, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“The Government’s slowness to move on saliva testing for our border workers is staggering.

"There could be up to 20,000 people working at out border, yet just 339 saliva tests have been carried out over the past four months.

“The Roche/Simpson report from September last year said ‘all efforts should be made to introduce saliva testing as soon as possible as part of the range of testing methods being conducted’.

“It took another four months for the Government to move to introduce voluntary saliva testing but it’s still only used in three MIQ hotels.

“Answers to written questions reveal that in April there was only 50 saliva tests carried out. The number of saliva tests being conducted each month is actually declining, not increasing.

“Public health experts have recommended introducing regular saliva testing across our border workforce, but the Government has been very slow to act.

“Saliva testing is still a form of PCR testing, but the samples are far easier to obtain. Any decrease in accuracy is more than made up through the increased regularity of testing.

“Under pressure from National in February, Dr Ashley Bloomfield suddenly announced that the Government would issue a Request for Proposals so that the Ministry of Health could partner with the private sector to conduct saliva testing in border facilities. Two months on, no progress appears to have been made.

“New Zealand deserves better. Frequent saliva testing across our border facilities would increase our security against Covid-19 at the border and would mean positive cases are picked up more quickly.

“It’s a no-brainer, which is why it’s hard to understand why the Government has been so slow to act on this.”

The Written Parliamentary Question is here.