COVID-19: Testing rate 'isn't meeting the Government's expectations' - Chris Hipkins

The Minister of Health is unhappy with the current lower level of COVID-19 testing in New Zealand.

A total of 1641 tests were processed on Monday, but Chris Hipkins says he's received advice from the Director-General of Health that at least 4000 tests should be completed each day. This number would give New Zealanders and the Government "sufficient confidence" that community transmission of the virus would be picked up.

"That's something [not testing 4000 a day] I'm going to be getting into detail with with health officials. We've seen that decline in recent days," he said on Tuesday. 

"I'm not going to second-guess the clinical guidance that they have been issuing - that's a matter for the clinicians - but I am going to be very clear with them that the level of testing at its current rate isn't meeting the Government's expectations."

Hipkins says he'll leave how to get the testing rate up to medical professionals since they need to exercise their clinical judgement around it. There's capacity to process up to 13,000 tests per day.

He says the level of testing should be raised within days, and this is a message he's made "very clear" to health officials.

"We've been very clear that based on their advice, we want to see a higher rate of testing so New Zealanders can have confidence that there is no community transmission of COVID-19," he says.

"I don't want any New Zealander to think that the reason we're not seeing COVID-19 in the community is that we're not testing for it. We want to keep testing for it so New Zealanders can be confident that we continue to keep COVID out."

He says he hasn't been given a good answer from health officials on why the number of tests being carried out has dropped over the past few days.

"It is not meeting the expectations that Cabinet has set out and the testing and surveillance plan that they put to us. I've made my expectation very clear, we've agreed a plan with them, I expect them to be implementing it."

Due to the two layers of testing at managed isolation facilities and of border staff, he says it's hoped the virus would be picked up before it got into the community.