Chris Hipkins reveals new COVID-19 testing guidance

Chris Hipkins has revealed the Government's updated testing criteria for COVID-19 in an effort to bring testing rates up.

On Tuesday the Minister of Health said the latest numbers of coronavirus testing per day "isn't where it needs to be" and rates had been down during the school holidays.

"The Government is concerned about the overall downward trend and the rate of testing. I have been working with the Ministry of Health on a new strategy around that to make sure our testing numbers go back up again."

On July 9, just over 3000 tests were completed in New Zealand but this has reduced to under 2000 over the last few days.

  • July 9- 3089 tests completed
  • July 10- 2575
  • July 11 - 2057
  • July 12 - 1824
  • July 13 - 1043
  • July 14 - 1620 

Hipkins announced the new testing guidance which has been rolled out on Wednesday.

"Our first priority of course, as it always has been, is all people who are symptomatic or meet the high index of suspicion criteria that has been issued.  They should all have been offered a test and that has been the case all of the way through," he said.

"Adding to that though, as part of the further guidance which has gone out last night, clinicians are also being offered tests to others presenting to health services with symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19 or are likely to experience more severe consequences if they were to contract COVID-19." 

He said the groups which will be offered more testing includes seniors, Māori and Pacific people, and those who have got significant pre-existing conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. 

"[Health officials] are also being encouraged to offer testing to any symptomatic health care workers and any workers at aged residential care facilities."

He said the expectation is the extra guidance, with extra groups being brought in, will "start to bring those [testing] numbers back up again".

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern added they will also have "the ongoing of testing of workers at the border and in our [managed isolation and quarantine] MIQ facilities as well".

During the press conference, Hipkins said he expected over 2000 tests will have been completed in the 24 hours before Wednesday 1pm.