Kate Hawkesby: We need to test far more people for Covid-19

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Wed, 18 Mar 2020, 11:44AM
Photo / Supplied

Kate Hawkesby: We need to test far more people for Covid-19

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Wed, 18 Mar 2020, 11:44AM

I have been banging on all week about testing, and yesterday the World Health Organisation came out and said three critical words “test test test.”

So important they said it three times.

The W.H.O says they've not seen an urgent enough escalation of testing and contact tracing, which they say is the backbone of the response.

We’ve heard countless stories anecdotally here, of people calling the health line with symptoms and being refused tests, people calling medical centres and being refused tests, GP’s being told to be selective about who they test, it’s a sore point for the Prime Minister who keeps referring to our testing ‘capabilities’ but that’s based on our labs ability to process tests, it’s not indicative of how many kits we have available.

Which leads me to my greatest concern in all of this, how can we confidently say there is no community transmission?

How would we know if we’re not testing enough people?

National’s Simon Bridges yesterday said, ‘the testing criteria should be loosened because the number of tests in New Zealand was "simply not good enough". We're now in a position where it's under 600 tests in this country, when comparable countries like Norway have 8000. We should be in the thousands," he said.

I rang the Ministry of Health yesterday to ask how may testing kits we have available in the country as at today’s date. They sent back the standard reply of what the labs capability is for testing, that's not an answer to the question - how many kits?

I’m still waiting for a response on that. I don't expect to get one.

I’ve seen a letter sent to GP’s by the Director General of Health which loosened the rules around testing a wee bit, he said GP's are now no longer required to discuss a case with the local Medical Officer of Health prior to testing, effectively trying to streamline the process which should in theory speed things up.

But, and there is a but, he also asks GP’s to ‘use testing supplies with prudence’. He says there is ‘no indication for the testing of asymptomatic people’ but how many people are we hearing about overseas who tested positive .. while displaying absolutely no symptoms?

In the last 24 hours we tested 60 people. With over 10,000 people self isolating and 7000 people calling health line yesterday alone, we tested 60 people. And we got 4 more cases!

The government says we don't have community transmission, what we don't have is EVIDENCE of community transmission.

"Test, test, test", the W.H.O says, so why aren’t we?