Business in New Zealand grants exemption of green lights for rapid antigen testing

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WELLINGTON, Oct. 14 (Xinhua) -- Some of New Zealand's largest businesses have put in an order for 300,000 approved rapid antigen tests for their workforce, after working with the government on a new scheme unveiled on Thursday.

A coalition of around 25 businesses across a range of sectors has been granted an exemption to import and use approved rapid antigen tests, Associate Minister of Health and Research, Science and Innovation Ayesha Verrall said in a statement.

Rapid antigen testing will sit alongside other COVID-19 testing used in New Zealand, and vaccinations, to boost New Zealand's public health response, she said.

"As we enter a new phase of our COVID-19 response, with more and more New Zealanders gaining protection through vaccinations, we can expand the tools we use to find and stamp out the virus," Verrall said.

Some of the businesses in this group are already using rapid antigen tests successfully overseas, and their international experience has helped develop this New Zealand scheme, she said, adding the government will continue to refine, learn and iron out any issues in this first phase before this testing can be rolled out as part of the country's wider COVID-19 response.

To begin with, businesses will use nasal swabs, and the rapid antigen testing can provide a result within around 15 minutes, Verrall said, adding the testing tends to be less sensitive at detecting cases, so PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests will remain the mainstay of COVID-19 testing in most situations.

Auckland Airport Chief Executive Adrian Littlewood said businesses are focused on protecting the health and safety of their teams, as well as ensuring their critical work sites can continue to operate when there are cases of the virus in the community. Rapid testing is a vital added layer of protection to help identify chains of transmission and ensure workplace continuity.

The coalition of businesses covers industries including manufacturing, energy, food production, telecommunications, freight, aviation and aged care.

"This is about supporting businesses to increase levels of testing amongst their workers, harnessing innovation, and supporting the COVID-19 economic recovery, as we continue to swiftly identify and respond to cases of COVID-19," Verrall said. Enditem

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