The Ministry of Health plans to ramp up surveillance testing for Covid-19 by hiring a private company to swab the saliva of border workers.
Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield on Thursday said the ministry wanted to use saliva tests for asymptomatic surveillance testing of border workers, likely swabbing twice a week on top of the routine use of nasal swabs.
Saliva testing for Covid-19 has yet to be substantially adopted in New Zealand, despite its use in countries like Australia and the United States.
A Government-appointed review in September said “saliva testing as a complementary methodology should be introduced as soon as possible”, and the ministry was in the early stages of a trial by February.
It shouldn’t have taken six months for this modest step.
Two universities in the US have managed to stay open by doing daily saliva testing of all staff and students.
You can get a result from a saliva test in around 90 minutes.
I’m told that if you did saliva testing in MIQ every day, then seven days of testing would give you just as much confidence about locating someone with Covid-19 as doing nasal swabs on Day 3 and 12. This means you could half the time people spent in MIQ which would double capacity.