Free rapid antigen tests (RATs) are now available for home testing via the Request a RAT website, if you are symptomatic or a household contact.
The Ministry of Health’s Acting Group Manager of COVID-19 Testing and Supply Jo Pugh says it is just one of a range of ways MoH is making testing more readily available for those who need it.
“We have a good supply of RATs to meet demand during Phase Three of our Omicron response,” Jo says.
“These new RATs are flowing through the supply chain and into collection sites where they can be accessed by anyone assessed as needing one.”
There are 146 collection sites, 106 testing centres, and 21 providers supporting our priority population groups nationwide.
And with the addition of participating pharmacies and GPs, there are now more than 500 access points for RATs, with additional sites continuing to be opened across the motu.
Jo adds the ability to place an order online ensures the process is smoother when people go to collect them.
“It also means the whole whānau don’t need to queue up at the testing centre when one person in the household gets sick, because you’ll be able to collect RATs for everyone in your household.”
People can still access free RATs without an order via Community Testing Centres, but only for an eligible individual.
The tests are also available for purchase in some retail stores now for people who are not unwell or household contacts but want a RAT for other reasons.
“We want to make sure getting tested is as easy as possible for people – it is an important part of our strategy to slow the spread of the virus to keep the pressure off hospitals,” Jo explains.
“The website also contains features to prevent people from ordering too many RATs to ensure that everyone who needs one can get one.
“These features include order limits by address and phone number.”
General Practitioners will also be using RATs as part of clinical consultations, where appropriate, Jo says, but they will not generally be distributing to the public outside this regime.
“By the end of March, we expect to build up the number of places where RATs are available to 1000 sites around the country, so the majority of New Zealanders can access a free RAT within 20 minutes driving distance – we are also exploring options to deliver RATs to those who order them.”
The tool is a timely initiative following large shipments of RATs into the country, and in the past seven days, more than 7.7 million RATs have been dispatched from the central supply.
Meanwhile, District Health Boards (DHBs) are working hard to push them out to the system.
“Increased use of RATs will ease some of the pressure on our laboratories over the next three to six weeks, while helping to ensure critical services and supply chains remain operational, our most vulnerable communities are protected, and our economy keeps moving,” Jo says.
How to order:
RATs can be requested on behalf of someone else – you just need access to a mobile phone to validate their order.
You will be issued an order number. You can then collect your RAT order from a collection site listed on Healthpoint, or have someone collect it for you.
For people are not unwell or a Household Contact but want to get a RAT for other purposes, such as to visit an elderly relative, there are retail options now, including the Chemist Warehouse and Countdown.
The MPP website has instructions on how to take a RAT, in the following Pacific languages: Te Reo Māori Kuki ‘Āirani, Vosa Vakaviti, Te taetae ni, Kiribati, Vagahau Niue, Fäeag Rotuḁm, Gagana Samoa, Gagana Tokelau, Lea Faka Tonga, and Te Gana Tuvalu.
Remember to self-report positive results for RATs through My Covid Record, to help us understand the size of the outbreak. People who need help recording their result can also call 0800 222 478.