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Government unveils plans for RAT rural delivery service

Mar 30, 2022

A rapid antigen test (RAT) rural delivery service will ensure 95 percent of New Zealanders are within a 20 minute drive to collect tests, the government has announced.

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said the government's RAT rural delivery service would help supply the tests to the roughly 250,000 people who live remotely.

They announced the service at the Covid-19 briefing this afternoon, saying DHBs had initiatives under way to supply RATs to rural communities, including and the service launched this week was connecting rural households to those initiatives.

These included RAT distribution via jetboat and stock trucks in Whanganui, a roving team supplying people on the West Coast, and a distribution plan for high-country stations in South Canterbury.

The service would also make use of Māori-led distributions channels, which could reach 1000 community partners.

Where there was no initiative in place, RATs would be couriered directly to households, Verrall said.

"More than 95 percent of New Zealanders are within a 20 minute drive of a RAT access point. But we need to make sure that the 250,000 who live remotely are also able to access testing easily," Hipkins said.

Another brand of RAT - the Biocredit ag Home test - has also been approved for use in New Zealand, bringing the number of approved brands in New Zealand to 12.

The ministers said New Zealand had 31.5 million tests in stock with another 48.4 arriving over the next four weeks.

Dr Verrall said people can access the service to place an order for RATs on 0800 222 478. The local provider will discuss the most appropriate access or delivery option once eligibility is confirmed. People can also arrange a delivery option via the website.

"The system will let you know what services are nearby, and you can also then contact the assisted channel to arrange the delivery option if you're in a remote area."

Hipkins said the work built on the work being done with Māori providers, and put a real emphasis on providing RATs to the disability community, and working with first responders, youth justice facilities, aged residential care facilities, and education settings.

He said the government had been working on getting the tests available as widely as possible, and some of the rural and isolated communities will be some of the last to be directly impacted by the virus.

"So, it's never too late, I think is the message."

He said the average number of tests supplied has increased from three to five.

"Once you've got a positive test of course the real focus is on your household contacts."

There is a greater supply available for those having to test to go to work, he said.

While the outbreak of Omicron is subsiding in Auckland, it's still picking up steam elsewhere.

Cases have been rising in Canterbury, but high booster and vaccination rates are helping keep pressure off Christchurch hospital's emergency department.

The Ministry of Health yesterday reported New Zealand's highest daily number of deaths with Covid-19 - 34 fatalities - although they spanned the previous 10 days.

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