The Government is blaming reluctance among some border workers for its slow rollout of saliva testing.
COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says not being able to eat or smoke beforehand puts some off, but the chief executive of a testing provider says he's seen no evidence of that.
Saliva testing is simple and non-invasive when compared to the traditional nasal swab. It involves spitting in a jar and you only need about a fifth of a teaspoon.
Rako Science laboratory director Amanda Dixon-McIver says her team has been provided with samples from children as young as two years old.
"And four and six-year-olds don't seem to mind at all. So even a child can do it," she says.
But getting this rapid test off the ground has been anything but rapid, with Hipkins admitting it's been "slower than I would like to see".
In September 2020, government advisors that worked on the Simpson Roche report said saliva testing should happen "as soon as possible".
A voluntary saliva testing system was set up on January 25, 2021, but only 386 saliva tests have been completed over the past six months.
Last week, a prototype saliva test trial started for a small group of border workers in Christchurch.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of Health said "tests had been completed" as part of that trial, but refused to say how many.
Hipkins says the fact it's taken a long time to get saliva tests rolling out on a wider scale is "a bit frustrating".
National's COVID response spokesperson Chris Bishop says it looks like incompetence.
"It's not good enough frankly for the minister just to say, 'Oh I'm as frustrated as you are, I'm really working on the officials'. He is the minister. The Government is in charge of this," he says.
The saliva tests are being trialled on border workers, but Hipkins claims some are reluctant.
"You can't eat for a period of time beforehand, you can't smoke for a period beforehand."
Although Rako Science's chief executive Leon Grice doesn't think that's an issue.
"We've found no reluctance to testing. There are some that think the fast is a problem, which is you have to not eat, drink, or smoke for an hour but we've found no problem."
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Victoria University associate professor Janet Pitman completed a study on Rako Science's Saliva test.
She says it's the only test in New Zealand that's been diagnostically validated, meaning you compare saliva to nasal tests from people with COVID-19.
"We know with the test that we validated here at Victoria University of Wellington that it has an incredibly high accuracy of over 98 percent."
However, the ministry picked another provider, Asia Pacific Healthcare Group, to run its saliva tests.
Asia Pacific Healthcare Group told Newshub they are FDA approved.
But Grice says the ministry's decision came as a surprise.
"We were validated in December last year and accredited. We were the only ones going into the tender that were accredited and validated so we were surprised."
The Ministry of Health says it undertook a comprehensive procurement process when deciding who should do the tests.
However, the Government is still unsure when exactly a nationwide rollout will begin.