Coronavirus: Some supermarkets to stock rapid antigen tests as early as next week

Some supermarkets throughout New Zealand are about to have a brand new item in stock - rapid antigen tests (RATs).

The tests will be stocked at Foodstuffs shops - PAK'nSAVE, New World, and Four Square - from next week.

"The team have worked some miracles, and we've managed to get to a point where we should be able to get stock of the rapid antigen tests that are suitable for retail in the middle of this week, and we hope out to our stores by Monday next week," says Chris Quin, Foodstuffs North Island CEO.

They'll be available to buy in a five or two-pack option.

"A five-pack of the tests for $32.99 so that's about $6.60 a test. We're doing them at cost because we think New Zealanders need this over the next six to eight weeks," Quin says.

And while they're still free at testing stations for close contacts or those with symptoms, RATs are starting to pop up for sale elsewhere too.

Testing is more important than ever because of the large number of COVID-19 cases. There were 14,633 new cases on Monday, with more than 9000 in Auckland alone, and they're starting to have an impact. 

Auckland Transport says it's starting to see an increase in cancellations across its services. 

To help minimise the disruption, staff are using RATs, but because of the sheer size of the outbreak, AT says bus, train and ferry services will be affected. 

Ports of Auckland has 20 percent of its operational staff isolating as a case or household contact, but says the situation is currently "manageable". 

Supermarkets are focused on supply chains. 

"I'd call it stable but pressured, we need to keep going, we've got a few weeks ahead of us," Quin says.

February 28 also marks two years since the very first case of COVID-19 was reported in New Zealand.

Another milestone was also passed today of 100,000 cases in the country since the pandemic began.

Currently, 344 people are in hospital, five of whom are in intensive care, and the unvaccinated are over-represented in these numbers.

Of people aged over 12 in New Zealand, the unvaccinated makeup just 3 percent, but in the same group in hospitals in Auckland and Northland, the unvaccinated make up 12 percent.