Saliva tests seen as helpful

Geneticist Professor Neil Gemmell. Photo: Supplied / University of Otago
Professor Neil Gemmell. Photo: Supplied / University of Otago
Anxiety about pandemic risks could be reduced by adding pre-departure saliva testing for Covid-19 for incoming Australian green zone passengers, a researcher says.

University of Otago geneticist Prof Neil Gemmell said many New Zealanders welcomed the start of two-way quarantine-free travel between New Zealand and Australia this week.

However, many others were anxious about possible Covid-19 spread.

Careful investigation and costings would be required, but he believed that adding pre-departure saliva testing would reduce anxiety among some New Zealanders.

This would be an ‘‘additional safeguard’’ and would strengthen the security of the already well-handled quarantine-free system.

‘‘Certainly might improve confidence that as we open up our borders we maintain our safety.

‘‘I think the situation is pretty well considered and managed but, given the implications that a border breach would generate, a bit more prevention might be welcome,’’ he said.

New Zealanders going to Australia would also do the test, which involved spitting into a cup.

Saliva tests were less invasive than the more common naso-pharyngeal tests, which were ‘‘pretty invasive’’ and required specialists to obtain.

‘‘Saliva tests, which are not quite as efficient, are quick and easy, so perhaps an ideal scenario is to use these easy tests for several days ahead of departure to show with confidence that you are negative,’’ Prof Gemmell said.

Travellers from countries apart from Australia at present needed a negative test 72 hours before departure to New Zealand using a naso-pharyngeal test.

Although saliva tests were not quite as accurate as the nasal tests, multiple daily saliva tests several days before travel would give ‘‘high confidence’’ of being Covid-free.

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