New Zealand’s Ministry of Health has just announced that rapid antigen tests are now available for home testing free of charge. In a media release posted on their website on March 2, rapid antigen tests or RATs can be acquired at no extra cost by ordering online via the RAT requester site.
Acting Group Manager of Covid-19 Testing and Supply Jo Pugh emphasized that the initiative aims to make testing more accessible to New Zealanders who need it. “It’s one of a range of ways we are making testing more readily available for those who need it,” she said.
RATs will also remain available in Community Testing Centres but “only for eligible individuals” as reported by RNZ. While the government has made testing kits more available, they also warn the public against stockpiling and hoarding. Some news agencies report that there are fears of hoarding testing kits by people buying in huge quantities from pharmacies making them unavailable to those who need them.
Last January, there was a global shortage of rapid antigen tests due to a sudden spike in Covid-19 Omicron variant cases.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins reiterated that while RAT supplies continue to pour in, there is no need to stock up more than half a dozen kits. “I do want to urge people to be patient when they are trying to access testing,” he said in a press briefing. “There is a lot of demand for testing and we are standing up more sites and locations where you could get tests every day. There is no need to stock up on rapid antigen tests… This month alone we have 105 million rapid antigen tests coming into the country… They are literally arriving all of the time.”
“If you have half a dozen tests on your hand, that is enough,” Hipkins underscored.
To date, over 22 million RATs have arrived according to the Ministry of Health press release. They are “flowing through the supply chain and into collection sites” making them accessible to those who need them. There are currently 146 collection sites, 106 testing centres, and 21 providers on top of participating GPs and pharmacies according to the Ministry of Health. There are more than 500 access points for RATs all over the country.
To order RATs, New Zealanders can visit requestrats.covid19.health.nz and follow the online process. They can also call 0800 222 478 (option 3) from 8 am to 8 pm. Orders done via call will require a mobile phone for order validation. After ordering, RATs can be picked up from the designated collection site.