10k rapid Covid tests 'gathering dust' after Govt withholds approval

Author
Jason Walls,
Publish Date
Thu, 25 Nov 2021, 5:05AM
(Photo / Getty)
(Photo / Getty)

10k rapid Covid tests 'gathering dust' after Govt withholds approval

Author
Jason Walls,
Publish Date
Thu, 25 Nov 2021, 5:05AM

A medical supplies company is calling on the Ministry of Health to let it distribute 10,000 rapid Covid-19 antigen tests – tests that are currently "gathering dust" in a Wellington warehouse. 

Surgical Supplies Director Leigh Thornton said various different companies – including the likes of Fletchers and Vector– are lining up to buy the kits to be used by their workforce. 

The Covifind self-testing kits – produced by multi-billion dollar Indian medical device manufacture Meril Life – are 98.7 per cent effective and, through an app, provide Covid-19 tests results in 15 minutes. 

Thornton said these tests are used all over the world – but the Ministry of Health has so-far blocked their use in New Zealand. 

"We have 10,000 tests just sitting there that we can't do anything with… they're just gathering dust." 

National's Covid-19 spokesman said this isn't good enough and the Ministry needs to step up. 

"You can get rapid tests from the supermarkets in Melbourne and Sydney – but you can't get one at the supermarket in Wellington. 

"It doesn't make any sense and it's time for the Government to end this ban." 

Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said rapid antigen tests will play an "increasingly prominent role" in New Zealand – especially over summer. 

"The world will be using rapid antigen tests more widely – and New Zealand will be using rapid antigen tests more widely."     

Despite this, the Ministry of Health won't budge when it comes to Surgical Supplies' case. 

A spokesperson said the tests purchased by the company are "not on the schedule of approved testing kits" and, therefore cannot be sold in New Zealand. 

At the moment, there are just three rapid antigen tests authorised for import and supply in New Zealand. 

Asked yesterday if the Ministry of Health had the capacity to allow more tests to be used, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the tests that have been evaluated are "the best ones". 

"So we're going to stick with that for the time being – however, we do have a process for getting further advice on other brands, or types of tests." 

Bloomfield said the Ministry's open to broadening the number of rapid tests the Government will allow – companies just need to apply to the Ministry of Health. 

But Thornton said his company has been waiting weeks to hear back from the Ministry as to whether it will give Covifind the green light. 

He has called on the Ministry to approve the tests as soon as possible. 

More rapid testing, he said, means less demand on the traditional PCR tests which take longer to get a result. 

He is also willing to sell them to the Ministry of Health to use at cost – meaning his company would not make a profit.   

"In a pandemic situation, no one should be making a profit – they should be sold at cost." 

The problem arose back in April, when Surgical Supplies purchased the rapid tests from Meril Life. 

But just days after that purchase was made, the Ministry of Health issued an order which prevented companies importing rapid Covid tests. 

The only exception was the three companies handpicked by the Government. 

Bishop said this is effectively a ban. 

"We need to be using them [rapid tests] in supermarkets and in pharmacies across the country. 

"Businesses need to be able to import them through the Ministry if they want to use them for their employees."