Pressure put on Govt over Lucira test kits

The National Party is putting pressure on the Government to give approval for an over-the-counter Covid-19 test that returns a result in 30 minutes.

Yesterday, the party’s Covid-19 spokesman, Chris Bishop, and his colleagues, immigration spokeswoman Erica Stanford and Dunedin-based list MP Michael Woodhouse, met local businessman Sir Ian Taylor in his office in Dunedin to discuss the use of the Lucira Covid-19 test kit.

In recent months, Sir Ian has been lobbying the Government to adopt quicker and easier Covid-19 testing methods.

He used the Lucira test in his own self-isolation trial last year after he returned from a business trip overseas.

The kits, which are widely used in countries such as Canada and Israel, consist of a self-administered nasal swab that goes into a tube and is processed in a battery-powered testing device.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Bishop described the Lucira test as a "game changer" and was frustrated that it had not been taken up by the Government.

Lucira wrote to the Government in July 2020 about its test and Mr Bishop accused the Government of ignoring it.

His message to the Government was to adopt its use as a matter of urgency.

"Too much time has already been lost. They need to get on with it."

Sir Ian Taylor (left) administers a Lucira Covid-19 test on himself yesterday afternoon as...
Sir Ian Taylor (left) administers a Lucira Covid-19 test on himself yesterday afternoon as National Party MPs Chris Bishop (second from left), Erica Stanford and Michael Woodhouse watch. PHOTOS: GREGOR RICHARDSON
People were having to wait up to five days to get PCR test results back, which was not tenable as more people became infected with Omicron.

"It is just going to cause chaos."

On a local level, Mr Woodhouse said the test could be used by the 5000 students moving into Dunedin to attend university.

"If we could use that here, parents would feel a lot calmer sending their kids down here," Mr Woodhouse said.

Institute of Medical Laboratory Science president Terry Taylor, who was also at the meeting, said the Lucira test would be a tool that would take the pressure off labs as the Omicron outbreak grew.

"We need plenty more tools in the toolbox over the coming weeks," he said.

More than 2000 Lucira test kits, and 20,000 rapid antigen tests, are being sent to Tonga to help protect its borders during the island nation’s Covid outbreak.

Air New Zealand had agreed to fly the tests over free of charge from the United States to Tonga and it was hoped they would be there by early next week.

A small group of business people had made that happen for Tonga with just two weeks’ organisation, Sir Ian said.

The test
The test
"Nobody will get off a ship or plane in Tonga now without taking a test," he said.

The Ministry of Health is responsible for assessing and approving point of care tests for use in New Zealand.

The ministry said due to commercial sensitivities, until a point of care test application was approved, it was not commenting on applicants.

However, the ministry said 37 rapid antigen test (Rat) devices were subject to full technical review.

Of those, eight were recommended,

11 were still under review and 18 were not recommended for import or use.

But Sir Ian believed the response from the Ministry officials highlighted the confusion that reigned in its public announcements.

The Lucira was a molecular test not a rapid antigen test and should be compared directly with the PCR test.

"How are the public meant to understand the important different between a RT LAMP test and a rapid antigen test if the Ministry's officials don't?''