A Covid-19 saliva testing expert from Yale University is “terrified” at how unprepared the Government is for Omicron, and says it urgently needs to ramp up saliva testing of border workers before it is too late.
Yale University’s Anne Wyllie says New Zealand authorities need to test border workers daily, and pay attention to new research showing saliva testing is better at detecting Omicron.
“I’m terrified it’s going to be too little too late. New Zealand has had almost two years to straighten out its testing system, to get things in place.”
RATs are still banned from import and not widely available and publicly funded saliva testing is also near non-existent. And we have known for over a year both are needed.
A study from the University of Cape Town, in South Africa, finds nasal swabs, which performed well with the Delta variant, were less effective at detecting Omicron. It concludes nasal samples may be “suboptimal” for detecting the new variant.
Even if you are sticking with nasal polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, Wyllie warns testing high-risk border workers once or twice a week is nowhere near enough to get on top of an Omicron outbreak.
What worked well with other variants will crumble with Omicron.
Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer labels the hold-up on a wider roll-out of saliva testing as “bizarre”.
She says the availability of saliva testing made a real difference to how willing people were to be tested.
It’s less unpleasant, and quicker.