The Government says it is not requisitioning stocks of rapid antigen tests (RATS), it is only "consolidating" orders of tests heading into the country, but at least one distributor of the tests isn't so sure, and has challenged the ministry to prove it is telling the truth.
The Government said it has channelled business' orders of RATS into its own stocks, responding to claims from business that testing stocks had been requisitioned.
This means business' orders of tests that were heading into the country will now be consolidated into an order by the Government.
Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said he was "not commandeering all the stocks that private businesses have", and added that only tests that were not already in the country have been "consolidated".
"We have discussed with our three main suppliers, which are Abbott, Roche, and Siemens that forward orders of tests that haven't yet arrived in the country, that those be consolidated into the Government's stock," Bloomfield said.
Bloomfield said there were "processes in place to supply businesses with tests if they are using them at the moment, and that will continue".
InScience director Ann-Louise Anderson, who has had hundreds of thousands of tests on order, said the Government had actually taken product that was already in New Zealand, and challenged the Government to prove that what it said was true.
"I'd like to see them prove that what they said is true," Anderson said.
She said the first stocks started to get consolidated two weeks ago.
"They took all the product that was at the manufacturers," she said, adding this would mean reduced allocations for businesses she supplied.
The Government justified its decision to "consolidate" the tests ordered by businesses by saying there was no guarantee the businesses would get the tests they had ordered in the first place.
"They have not been requisitioned - there was no guarantee that anyone's forward orders was going to be fulfilled," said Minister Ayesha Verrall.
"It is the global supply situation that has led to the situation in which everyone's orders are difficult to confirm, and the action that we have taken has made sure that more New Zealanders will get tests and more New Zealanders will be able to access them.
"There is no guarantee that small orders would have been fulfilled.
Bloomfield said no special powers had been used to requisition the tests – instead, he had a Sunday morning conversation with Abbott, a supplier.
"When we were discussing our forward orders and trying to get as much certainty as possible about how much of those forward orders would be delivered and the timing of those between now and the end of February
"During that conversation I was asked about the orders that New Zealand-based companies have and I was asked whether they should prioritise that all-of-government order and I said 'yes – that should be the priority for now'," Bloomfield said.
"I want to reiterate, businesses will be able to access the tests," he said.
- by Thomas Coughlan, NZ Herald