The Ministry of Health is extending the coverage within the existing saliva testing contract with Asia Pacific Healthcare Group (APHG) to support testing of permitted workers who need to cross Auckland’s Alert Level boundaries.
APHG was contracted in May 2021 to provide surveillance saliva testing which has been primarily used for the border workforce and in MIQFs.
Contract negotiations are still underway with another accredited testing provider to increase our national saliva testing capacity, following an expression of interest process. We expect to finalise this contract in the near future.
Extending our existing capacity through APHG will enable us to immediately provide saliva testing as an option for permitted workers who need to cross Alert Level boundaries. It is a less invasive and more convenient option, which is vital for workers who need testing to be as convenient as possible.
Taking a saliva sample is a self-administered process which does not require a healthcare worker. Saliva samples can be taken at home or at work and collection drop-off boxes will be made available at accessible locations. This is particularly helpful for shift workers who may find it difficult to get tested during regular hours.
This regular testing will provide the assurance that travel is being done safely and prevent COVID-19 crossing boundaries from these higher risk settings.
As of today, permitted workers crossing the alert level boundary must get a test within the 7 days prior to crossing, and their employers are required to have the systems and processes in place, so far as is reasonably practicable, to facilitate this requirement. This includes enabling their workers to undergo testing, medical examination, or both during their working hours.
Because this is surveillance testing, people will not be required to stand down or stay at home while awaiting their result.
The Ministry of Health has been working closely with the sectors, including trucking companies, impacted by this new testing requirement to minimise disruption and delays for their workforce.
This also includes making sure testing sites are set up close to the boundary to ensure testing can be undertaken as easily and efficiently as possible for these workers. The Ministry is also working with some of the major companies to make on-site testing available for their workforce.
We appreciate the important role these workers have in protecting our borders and thank them for doing this to keep New Zealander safe.