Businesses still waiting to hear which workforces will be deemed 'critical' to access COVID-19 rapid antigen tests

As Omicron cases start to creep up, businesses are still waiting to hear from the Government whether they'll be deemed critical workforces and get access to COVID-19 rapid antigen tests.

Sir Ian Taylor has got a solution but he says the Ministry of Health is dragging the chain on approving it.

It's nearly harvest time for New Zealand's wine. There's a billion dollars worth of grapes on the vines - but they're on the line.

"A lot of wineries have effectively gone into a self imposed lockdown already to keep their staff safe," Marlborough winemaker Clive Jones from NZ Winegrowers told Newshub. 

"A lot of wineries have effectively gone into a self-imposed lockdown already to keep their staff safe."

Jones says what wineries need is clarification - for the Government to say is who is critical and gets to use rapid antigen tests, and who isn't and could have to isolate for possibly 24 days.

"Whatever decisions are made are probably going to be made too late rather than just in time and certainly not in advance to give us time to prepare," Jones says. 

Turns out it'll be self-determined, according to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. 

"We've had a number of systems all the way through our COVID management that have relied on businesses - once we've sent out some guidance - them then determining whether or not they fit that criteria," she told reporters on Friday. 

Entrepreneur Sir Ian Taylor helped health officials strike a rapid test deal.

"The reality is every business is essential and every worker is critical to that business and we could have solved it eight weeks ago - there'd be 50 million rapid antigen tests in the country," he says. 

"Because they delayed so long the order only went in a few hours before Chinese New Year when the factory's closed."

He says the Ministry of Health is now dragging its chain on approving Lucria molecular tests. They're as accurate as a PCR and almost as quick as a rapid antigen test, getting results in 30 minutes.

Sir Ian wants these used at the border.

"Rapid antigen tests have a role to play but being that protection at the border is not one of them."

The plan is to give every traveller three rapid tests to take home when fortress New Zealand cracks open at the end of the month.

But Newshub can reveal it could have cracked open sooner. Health officials told COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins way back in November there was a relatively low risk to public health by those arriving by air self-isolating, compared to the public health risks posed by community cases or close contacts.

"The public health advice they have is they could open the borders to people self-isolating at home now and the public health impact would be negligible," says ACT leader David Seymour.

Ardern said: "Our reopening has been based on several factors; the most important is the level of protection we all individually have."

Businesses are hoping they won't have to wait until the great reopening to find out if they get the tests they need to stay open.