Rapid antigen tests now being trialled by New Zealand businesses

Published: 28 October 2021

A shipment of 300,000 rapid antigen tests has arrived in New Zealand and is now being rolled out across some of the country’s largest businesses as part of a Government-approved trial to expand the tools used to find and stamp out COVID-19.

The trial begins this week with 29 businesses across a range of sectors, after the 300,000 tests arrived in Auckland late last week from Australia. As Associate Minister of Health and Research, Science and Innovation Ayesha Verrall announced last week, the initial focus of the trial will be on large businesses, including airports, energy producers, food manufacturers and retirement homes. The Government, MBIE, the Ministry of Health and the trial businesses are working at pace to determine how this testing can be used more widely across other New Zealand businesses.

MBIE Deputy Chief Executive Te Whakatairanga Service Delivery Suzanne Stew said the trial will allow participating businesses to roll out rapid antigen testing in the workplace to help them meet their health and safety obligations, to give their staff confidence they’re working in a safe environment, and to support the COVID-19 economic recovery.

“The swift arrival of the tests means we can now make real progress with the trial. It’s encouraging to see the collaborative process between government agencies and the private sector working so effectively,” she said. “Using real-time insights and the experience of this business group, together we can look at how we can expand rapid antigen testing successfully for other businesses across New Zealand,” Ms Stew said. “This is about giving businesses another tool in their health and safety toolkit.”

Earlier this month, 29 businesses came together as a collective to ask the Government if they could import rapid antigen tests. MBIE and the Ministry of Health then worked at pace with the trial businesses to find a way to make testing available that was relevant for New Zealand businesses. The 29 businesses have signed up to a charter, which will be the foundation for this trial.

“Businesses want to do everything they can to keep their teams safe and well, and rapid testing is another layer of protection that we can now look to include into our health and safety management protocols,” said Auckland Airport Chief Executive Adrian Littlewood. “We are delighted to see the tests arrive in the country and our thanks again goes to the Government, MBIE and the Ministry of Health for their speedy response to our request. We’re looking forward to getting the trial underway this week with our essential workers.”

Procured by Auckland Airport via medical supplies wholesaler and distributor EBOS Healthcare, the 300,000 Abbott PanBio COVID-19 Ag Rapid tests are being funded by the 29 participating businesses.

The rapid antigen tests can provide an indicative result in about 15 minutes, and generally cost about $10 to $15 each. This allows for much faster results, which helps businesses operate more effectively. Rapid antigen tests tend to be less sensitive at detecting cases, so PCR tests will remain the mainstay of COVID-19 testing in most situations.

Rapid antigen testing is not a replacement for other COVID-19 testing used in New Zealand, or vaccinations. It sits alongside these services to boost New Zealand’s public health response.

image shows two men in surgical masks sitting in an office ready to give and receive a rapid antigen test.

Auckland Airport health and safety partner Peter Engelbrecht (left) gets trials for rapid antigen tests underway at the airport, with McConnell Dowell project manager Chris Gareze (right) volunteering to take part.

MBIE media contact

Email: media@mbie.govt.nz