Coronavirus: Chris Bishop hits out at Clarke Gayford's 'deeply inappropriate' alleged bid to get rapid antigen tests for musician mates

National's COVID-19 response spokesperson Chris Bishop calls an incident where Clarke Gayford allegedly tried to get a pharmacist to give his musician mates rapid antigen tests - in contradiction to health advice - "deeply inappropriate".

Pharmacist Michael Taylor, who works in Tauranga, took to Facebook after a group of potential COVID-19 close contacts came into his shop on December 29 asking whether they could get rapid antigen tests (RATs). This came in the wake of English DJ Dimension testing positive for the Omicron variant.

He says Gayford then intervened by claiming that criteria for accessing rapid antigen tests had changed in order to get his mates a test - they're actually only available in certain circumstances for particular people.

Taylor then posted in a private Facebook group for Kiwi pharmacists asking if there had been a change to eligibility for the tests, the NZ Herald reports

"Just had a group of vaccinated musicians arrive having potentially been exposed want a RAT - explained to them that they needed to have a PCR test done," Taylor wrote.

"As they didn't like this they got Clarke Gayford on the phone who proceeded to tell me that there had been a change in guidance and these people should be given RAT tests - when I explained that we had not received any direction from the MoH he was very unimpressed."

The Ministry of Health's website says if a person has flu-like or COVID-19 symptoms or they're a close or casual contact of someone infected with the virus, "rapid antigen screening should not be used, and the person should be directed immediately for a laboratory-based PCR test for COVID-19". 

According to Bishop, Gayford's role in the incident was "deeply inappropriate".

"Wow. Some vaccinated musicians went to get rapid antigen tests from a pharmacy after the DJ Dimension debacle," he wrote in a Facebook post.

"Pharmacist rightly said no, you need to go and get a PCR test if you're a potential close contact. So the musicians got Clarke Gayford on the phone who told the pharmacist the guidelines had changed (they hadn't). Deeply inappropriate." 

Gayford, who is Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's fiancé, has apologised in a statement through his manager, telling the NZ Herald he was "rung by a friend about rapid antigen testing and was put on speakerphone while the person was in a pharmacy".

"He apologises for any issues or confusion this may have caused the pharmacy staff."

ACT leader David Seymour has also waded into the situation and says he applauds Gayford for supposedly "advocating for rapid antigen tests".

"I'd never normally bring a politician's partner into politics, but everyone should break a rule from time to time, and I want to commend Clarke Gayford for advocating rapid antigen tests," he said in a statement on Wednesday night.

"If only he knew someone in the Government who could lift its silly restrictions."

Seymour has long campaigned for widespread use of rapid antigen tests and has criticised the Government in the past for not using these types of tests.

"I first said on June 2 that the Government should lift the ban on New Zealanders importing and using rapid antigen tests. Good ideas always prevail in the end, and now even Clarke Gayford has been caught strongly advocating for more access to rapid antigen tests," Seymour says.

"The world is already facing a massive supply crunch for rapid antigen tests, but no other country faces such severe restrictions on importing the tests from its own Government. With Omicron on the horizon, the restrictions should be lifted immediately.

"The Therapeutic Goods Authority (TGA) in Australia has authorised 65 types of tests, and they have a shortage. We are hamstrung by the doctrinaire Medsafe 'letting' New Zealanders only have four types under limited conditions."

Seymour adds that the Government "should take Gayford's lead and remove the silly restrictions" on rapid antigen tests.

Dimension was New Zealand's first Omicron community scare after he broke self-isolation rules when he didn't wait to receive the results of his day nine test. It came back positive and he was found to have the highly infectious variant.

The DJ, whose real name is Robert Etheridge, was due to perform at Rhythm & Alps near Wānaka before he was forced to pull out.

His travels around Auckland before his positive test returned sparked several locations of interest, including a restaurant and nightclub.

Several other musicians who came into contact with him were also forced to pull out of shows.