Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Saliva testing rollout disappointing

“The revelation that saliva testing at dual use MIQ facilities has resulted in just 140 tests, or six tests a day since starting almost a month ago is disappointing,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“Saliva testing was announced by COVID Response Minister Chris Hipkins on 22 January as the Government’s ‘precautionary measure in response to higher rates of infection overseas and the more transmissible variants of COVID-19.’

“But it’s not doing what the Minister sold it as.

“Unfortunately the Government doesn’t appear to have learned much in the six months since it became clear two thirds of border workers hadn’t been tested for COVID-19.

“Auckland was plunged into lockdown off the back of that environment.

“Now we’re in a third lockdown and the measure Chris Hipkins described as ‘another layer of assurance’ – saliva testing – is little more than an exercise in futility at six tests a day.

“Rather than do what the Simpson-Roche review told them to do in September, and what dozens of other countries have done since even earlier last year, this Government keeps finding excuses not to evolve and improve to meet COVID-19 as it evolves.

“Why would the Prime Minister, who said last August that ‘even a weekly testing regime is not fool proof,’ now be defending a failure to roll out less-invasive but effective testing that can be delivered daily?

“We know from the Journal of the American Medical Association that saliva testing has ‘similar sensitivity and specificity’ as nasal swab testing.

“Other countries, including Australia, are doing both – regular nasopharyngeal testing and daily saliva testing.

“New Zealand must adopt a culture of continuous improvement and embrace technologies that can help us avoid lockdowns.”