Saliva testing company waiting on Ministry of Health support to turn around 10,000 samples a day

A company processing COVID-19 saliva tests says it could turn around up to 10,000 samples a day if the Ministry of Health would let them do it.

A phased rollout to border workers has begun, but one provider was ready to be at capacity months ago. 

On the frontline of the vaccine rollout, the west Auckland workers are the latest to ditch the nasal swab for a quick and easy saliva test.

"The least invasive you can make that testing for them so they can get back out on the line is quite important,"  John Tamihere, Whānau Waipareira CEO, told Newshub.  

But aside from them and a few hundred border workers, saliva testing still hasn't been rolled out widely.

And the team behind it is frustrated to be waiting in the wings. 

"We've done the mahi, we want to help and there is an untapped resource here where we have the capacity to take 10,000 samples a day. Let us take the pressure off the public health system," Amanda Dixon-McIver, IGENZ Laboratory Director, says. 

Her focus has been launching the saliva testing with RakoScience to get the kits out as soon as possible. 

It's as simple as just unscrewing the test tube that they've provided, then using the spoon you can drool into to fill up the test tube halfway with your saliva. 

Once the lid is popped back on, you should receive your test result within 24 hours. 

It's thought to detect COVID-19 earlier than a nasal swab too, which RakoScience chief science director Dr Steve Grice argues would help get on top of an outbreak quickly.

"What is holding this rollout up? Well, it's not us. I don't know - that's for others to answer," he said. 

The Ministry of Health wanted to use daily saliva testing at the border eight months ago in January. 

"It is being rolled out now for our frontline border workers not all of them have access to it at this point," COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said. 

RakoScience says discussions with the Ministry have gone nowhere, leaving piles of empty testing kits waiting to be filled with saliva.