COVID-19: Rapid antigen testing off to bumpy start, pharmacies unable to report online test results

Rapid antigen testing got off to a bumpy start on Wednesday with a number of pharmacies unable to report online test results.

It's a process that only takes 15 minutes. A swab up the nose and straight into the testing tube of solution. Drops of that then go into the test device, a process known as rapid antigen testing.

After those 15 minutes are up, if there's just one line indicating a negative result, you're good to go.

Pharmacists should then be able to enter that result into an online database known as Eclair, but as of 9am on Wednesday, many couldn't.

"I got told it would be last night but I haven't seen it in my emails," pharmacist Annabel Turley told Newshub. "Well, I'll have to go back and re-enter everything."

Instead, paper copies are acting as interim proof of a negative result. 

"At the moment we're filling in manual forms because we haven't got access to the portal to report it on so then people will get a text message," Turley said. 

Late on Wednesday afternoon, the Ministry of Health said access had been granted to the majority of pharmacists but more would be set up on Wednesday evening. 

But it's not just the portal some pharmacies still don't have, some don't have any test kits either.

"There's been some disruption to some of the flights that were carrying the freight on them, but there's plenty of rapid antigen tests in the country," COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said. 

Even with plenty of stock, antigen tests are only being used for unvaccinated travellers aged over 12 years old.

Many vaccinated travellers believe the tests should be available to all and some health providers agree. 

"Over time we will see rapid antigen testing being more widely available but at this point the priority is to give people a quick way of being tested before they exit from Auckland if they haven't been vaccinated," Hipkins said

Fully vaccinated travellers from Auckland are being turned away from pharmacies and told to get a PCR test instead, with a 24-hour turnaround, much slower than the rapid versions.

"I would love for it to be unrestricted for both vaccinated and unvaccinated people," Turley said. "I've been inundated with phone calls about people who are vaccinated, people who are coming from Auckland to see family down here and they want to make sure they don't have COVID."

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