Sun, 28 Feb 2021

Border workers in quarantine facilities will be offered voluntary daily COVID-19 saliva tests in addition to their regular weekly testing, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today.

This additional option will be rolled out at the Jet Park Quarantine facility in Auckland starting on Monday 25 January, and then to other dual-use Managed Isolation and Quarantine facilities in Wellington and Christchurch.

"This new precautionary measure is in response to higher rates of infection overseas and the more transmissible variants of COVID-19, and is the latest in a series of added protection measures at the border," Chris Hipkins said.

"Saliva tests will be offered on a voluntary basis to staff at quarantine facilities..

"Saliva tests have a lower sensitivity than the nasopharyngeal test, so won't replace our ongoing 'gold standard' diagnostic testing methods already in place at the border and in our community. They will be offered as an additional screening tool for our highest risk border workers. The tests are less invasive.

"They could mean we pick up any positive cases among workers at quarantine facilities faster and will provide workers with another layer of assurance.

"They are among the most tested people in the country and perform a critical role in keeping COVID-19 out of New Zealand communities. Their ongoing safety is a top priority.

"The role and effectiveness of saliva testing continues to evolve. The Ministry of Health will report back to me with findings in early March 2021," Chris Hipkins said.

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