Auckland school headmaster denied unapproved type of rapid antigen test, despite it exceeding Ministry's standards

Auckland Grammar's headmaster says it's ridiculous the school's been blocked from collecting a shipment of rapid antigen tests that have arrived in the country. 

The type of test isn't yet approved by the Ministry of Health - but is widely available in Australia with an accuracy assessment of 90 percent.

Auckland Grammar Headmaster Tim O'Connor is incensed. He managed to get 2000 rapid antigen tests from Australia into the country. 

But they're being held at Customs. 

"Look it just seems ridiculous when we're actually trying to assist in the health and safety of people we care for, and we can't do it," O'Connor says.

The version of the tests that's arrived is called JusChek - which has FDA approval and is approved by Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration which is similar to Medsafe. 

New Zealand rules stipulate that rapid antigen tests must have an 80 percent sensitivity. 

Only 11 products have been approved here, while Australia has approved 26. 

Australia's health authorities say the JusChek test has a "very high" clinical sensitivity at 90 percent, exceeding the target set by the Ministry.

"Why would we not be supporting people to be proactive?" O'Connor says.

"He's imported a test that's widely available and works in Australia and is better than the Ministry's standard. I wouldn't blame Tim O'Connor, I would blame Ashley Bloomfield for not updating his list to be like Australians," Act Party Leader David Seymour said.

"Only approved rapid antigen tests can be imported. The Ministry is continuing to evaluate new applications, however, all applicants must go through a thorough evaluation process," the Health Ministry told Newshub.

"We should be flexible, and we should be allowing anything that's FDA approved into the country right now," O'Connor says.

He wants the Ministry to release the tests so he can have them by Monday. 

He says the rapid tests would mean they could check students at school - rather than immediately sending them home if they have a runny nose. 

Around two students a day at Auckland Grammar are testing positive and there are currently 10 teachers off because they're either close contacts or are confirmed to have the virus.

Rapid tests would mean fewer hours of learning lost in what's already been a turbulent and disrupted two years of education.

COVID has also hit King's College in Auckland's Otahuhu, forcing the school to effectively close for Friday and Monday and revert to distance learning for those days. All in-class learning has been put on hold.  

A letter from the school's Acting Headmaster, John Payne, to parents said several cases had been identified during the week but the situation had escalated rapidly. 

"Last night, it became apparent that the number of positive cases had risen sharply and the school decided to move to distance learning," he said. 

John Payne said the decision had "not been taken lightly" and that public health advisors supported the school's move. 

Boarders can choose to stay onsite or head home and normal in-class learning is expected to resume on Tuesday.