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Tight eligibility criteria for rapid antigen testing (RAT)

To meet domestic travel requirements from mid-December 15-minute COVID-19 rapid antigen testing will be available at no cost from participating community pharmacies throughout New Zealand until the end of January 2022.

Rapid antigen testing for asymptomatic unvaccinated individuals over 12 years and 3 months, who are travelling during the holiday period will be free from 15 December to 31 January and will be available as a supervised test at participating pharmacies throughout the country.

As 97.2% of the population live within 20 minutes’ drive from a pharmacy, use of this network will ensure testing is widely available for all those that need it during this time.

Utilising the pharmacy network to provide this service to meet these testing requirements provides a convenient, reliable and trusted option for the community.

Following the announcement by Minister Verrall on 25 November, the Ministry has been working with representatives from the pharmacy sector (Pharmacy Guild of New Zealand, Green Cross Health and the Pharmaceutical Society of New Zealand, Maori Pharmacists’ Association and Pacific Pharmacists’ Association) to operationalise supervised rapid antigen testing to the general public from 15 December.

Development of the funding model, supply chains, training material and other collateral to support pharmacies and the community on processes for the use of rapid antigen testing, and guidance to help individuals make decisions on whether it’s appropriate for their use is well underway, and with arrival of 2 million tests in New Zealand on 8 December, we working at pace to roll this out on 15 December.

Who is eligible?

  • Asymptomatic, unvaccinated individuals over 12 years and 3 months leaving Auckland. Port Waikato is included in the boundary with Auckland, and travellers across the boundary must follow the same rules.
  • Asymptomatic, unvaccinated domestic travellers over 12 years and 3 months from any other part of the country, who travel with a transport company that requires evidence of a negative test result.

Cost of test

RAT tests through participating pharmacies will be free from 15 December 2021 to 31 January 2022 for asymptomatic, unvaccinated individuals over 12 years and 3 months leaving Auckland and for the purpose of domestic travel as required by transport operators across New Zealand.

Please note:  these rapid antigen tests are not available for retail purchase and are not funded for use in any other circumstances other than those outlined in the eligibility criteria listed above.

Free rapid antigen testing is not available for any other purpose

Rapid antigen testing is:

  • not a replacement for diagnostic testing for COVID-19;
  • only used for asymptomatic testing for surveillance purposes; and
  • not a replacement for vaccination.

People with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, such as cold or flu symptoms, should contact Healthline (0800 358 5453) or their doctor to find out if they need a test.

Testing is free for this purpose and available from community testing centres, GPs and most urgent care clinics. For a full list of testing locations go to Healthpoint.

The Healthpoint website provides details of testing locations including community pharmacies offering a rapid antigen testing service.

Supervised testing only

Supervised testing means rapid antigen testing to meet testing requirements for unvaccinated travellers over the holiday break will be completed by the person travelling together with a member of the community pharmacy workforce.

People cannot purchase a rapid antigen test from community pharmacies and complete the test at home.

Off-the-shelf rapid antigen tests for purchase and use at home is being considered by Ministry of Health and may be available for the general public in the New Year.

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