ZB

Approval for Covid test kits 'too late'

Author
Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Sat, 11 Jun 2022, 1:02pm
A Lucira Check It Covid test. Photo / Alex Burton
A Lucira Check It Covid test. Photo / Alex Burton

Approval for Covid test kits 'too late'

Author
Otago Daily Times,
Publish Date
Sat, 11 Jun 2022, 1:02pm

Too little, too late.

That is what Sir Ian Taylor thinks about the Ministry of Health approving the Lucira Covid-19 test kit for use in New Zealand nearly two years after it was first approached about them.

On Wednesday, the ministry published a notice, signed by director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, in the New Zealand Gazette stating the tests, which return a result in 30 minutes with standard PCR accuracy, had been granted a full exemption for
use in New Zealand.

The kits consisted of a self-administered nasal swab that goes into a tube and is processed in a battery-powered testing device.

United States-based Lucira first approached the New Zealand Government about the tests in 2020, not long after the pandemic started.

Taylor, who had been urging the Government for months to approve them, said while it was great they had been approved, it had come far too late.

The tests could have been a "game-changer" earlier this year when the Omicron variant started to spread around the country which put "massive strain" on the testing laboratories.

It could have also been used as a tool to wind down managed isolation and quarantine earlier than it was, Taylor said.

"While they have approved it, it's like a lot of other things, they were late with the vaccinations, they were late with the rapid antigen tests [RATs], and they are late with this."

Now the tests were approved, he said the Government needed to subsidise their use and be prioritising them into schools, hospitals and businesses.

Late last year, Taylor brought an imported batch of the tests into New Zealand after he spotted them on a trip overseas but they were confiscated when he entered the country.
Asked whether he wanted them back, he said he "absolutely" did.

Speaking from the US, Lucira chief executive Erik Engelson said the process for trying to get approved was "incredibly frustrating".

"But it's good to finally get them approved and ready to go," he said.

The company had already set up inventory and distributors in New Zealand. "We are pretty much ready to go when we start getting some orders," Engelson said.

A Ministry of Health spokesperson confirmed it had approved the Lucira test for sale and use in New Zealand.

Now Covid-19 was widespread in the community and the borders were reopening, the ministry was looking at how it could use innovation to support the reopening and recovery.

The country had a pre-market assessment that looked at clinical performance, which created a higher threshold when it came to the number of tests approved for use in New Zealand, the spokesperson said.

"The more testing technologies and innovations we have the better to fight against Covid-19, but we have to make sure they are safe and effective as part of the overall testing regime in a New Zealand setting," she said.

When asked about whether Taylor would get his confiscated tests back, the spokesperson said the ministry did not remove any Lucira tests and referred comment to the New Zealand Customs Service.

- Riley Kennedy, ODT