Coronavirus: Change to COVID-19 test criteria as clinics flooded with flu patients

COVID-19 testing for every person with a cough or cold symptom has been dropped by the Ministry of Health.

Under new Ministry of Health testing guidelines, doctors and testing clinics, are urged to instead focus on those at highest risk.

For the past several weeks, anyone with even a sniffle had been told they can be tested for COVID-19. But that will no longer be the case unless they fall into a high-risk group or their doctor advises it.

The high-risk group includes anyone who have recently:

  • had contact with an infected person
  •  been overseas
  •  had direct contact with someone who had been overseas
  •  worked on an international aircraft of ship
  •  worked at an airport or isolation facility.

Other people with a cold or flu symptom could still be tested but it will not be a requirement.

The move is expected to put an end to the huge demand for tests in some areas over the past week as cold and flu season hit.

Northland GP Geoff Cunningham was so busy he ran out of swabs.

He was relieved to see the change.

"It would be unsustainable if we were to continue swabbing every minor respiratory tract infection," he said.

Leading public health doctor Nick Wilson, said the change was the right thing to do because there was no evidence the virus was transmitting in the community.

"When you recognise that situation and the fact that we are going into winter when there is a lot more cold and flu, we do have to probably tighten these criteria so we're not wasting a lot of health worker time and resource on inappropriate testing," he said.

A GP registrar at Papakura Marae's health centre, Julea Dalley, said the clinic would most likely still remain very careful because they were near the airport and likely to see a lot of airport workers.

She welcomed the change, saying she hoped it would mean people who had been avoiding the clinic would make an appointment.

A nurse speaks to a member of the public at a drive through a testing station in Morningside.
A nurse speaks to a member of the public at a drive through a testing station in Morningside. Photo credit: Getty

And the clinic still wanted people to turn up with sore throats, because of the risk of rheumatic fever, she said.

RNZ

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