Attribute to Nick Chamberlain, National Director - National Public Health Service, Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand
Free Rapid Antigen Tests (RATS) for COVID-19 testing will continue to be available to the public and the health and disability sector up until the end of June 2024, Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora has confirmed today.
“With COVID-19 very much still circulating in the community and continuing to impact hospital admission rates, current clinical and public health advice supports the ongoing provision of free RATs for COVID-19 to ensure the effective ongoing management of outbreaks.”
With New Zealand’s current stocks of RATs due to expire in March, Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora is purchasing a further five million RATs, these costs can be met from existing budgets for COVID-19 services. This will ensure continued access to RATs until 30 June 2024. No decisions have been made regarding the supply of RATs beyond June 2024.
“This means RATs will still be widely available to the public at no cost through our national network of participating providers, including some pharmacies, who can continue to order supplies from us as normal. Likewise, the wider health sector can also continue to access supplies from Health New Zealand - Te Whatu Ora as required.
“We strongly encourage people to make the most of the continued free access, and to keep testing if they feel unwell or think they may have COVID-19. We also encourage them to report their RAT result, as confirmation of a positive result enables people to be connected with any help and support they might need and provides vital insight on the number of active COVID-19 cases across the country.“
Participating RAT collection sites can be found at www.healthpoint.co.nz or by calling free on 0800 222 478 and choosing option 1.
Public health recommendations remain in place to guide people on how to best protect themselves and others from COVID-19:
- Stay at home if you are feeling unwell.
- Test with a RAT if you develop one or more of the following COVID-19 symptoms: a runny nose, sore throat, cough, fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, headache, loss of smell or taste, shortness of breath.
- Continue to report your RAT result at https://mycovidrecord.health.nz/ (or call the RAT helpline on 0800 222 478). Reporting a positive result provides vital insight on the number of active COVID-19 cases across the motu and enables you to be connected with any help and support you may need.
- If you test positive for COVID-19, it is recommended that you isolate for at least 5 days, even if you only have mild symptoms, starting at Day 0. This includes if you have had COVID-19 before. Day 0 is the day symptoms started or when you first tested positive, whichever came first. You should not go to work or school, and should discuss any return to work or school with your employer or child’s school principal, as they may require additional precautions.
- Household contacts are recommended to continue to test daily for 5 days using a RAT.
- People with a high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 are eligible for treatment with COVID-19 antiviral medicines. People can access these medicines if they:
- have COVID-19 and symptoms, and
- became sick within the last 5 days, and
- are eligible for the medicine.
As at 31 December 2023, Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora had distributed approximately 125 million free RATs for use by healthcare providers and the public.