Kia ora koutou,
We have undertaken a further review of our COVID-19 Testing Guidance for the Health Sector and I’m writing to inform you that there is now an updated version of this document on the Ministry’s website, replacing the testing guidance issued on 7 July 2021, to incorporate changes to the advice around testing children. The updated Testing Guidance published for the period 8 July to 8 September can be viewed here. It supersedes the Testing Guidance previously issued on 7 July.
The full current advice for the period ending 8 September 2021 is available here.
The emergence, and now the increasing prevalence, of the highly infectious Delta variant of the virus, reinforces the importance of testing to quickly identify and manage any cases of COVID-19 in the community to keep our communities safe.
For the period ending 8 September 2021, the primary focus of the Testing Plan is testing at the border. The secondary focus is testing in the community to quickly identify and manage any cases of COVID-19, should it be present.
Key messages in the latest update to the Testing Guidance for the Health Sector include:
Over the next six weeks we should continue to focus on:
· Testing anyone 12 years and over with symptoms of COVID-19 in all regions. This is particularly important as we are in the middle of winter. Anyone who is symptomatic should be tested as a priority, irrespective of region or other risk criteria.
Testing supplements infection protection and control measures already in place in border settings such as physical distancing, personal protective equipment, physical barriers, daily health checks and symptomatic people staying home. The vaccination roll-out is another key tool we're using to reduce the spread of infection.
As our vaccination programme ramps up across New Zealand, we must continue to encourage people to still get tested for COVID-19 if symptomatic or if they are subject to regular testing.
This vaccine is highly effective if people have both doses. Studies have shown that about 95% of people who received both doses of the vaccine are protected against getting COVID-19 symptoms, and they are far less likely to fall seriously ill or transmit the virus to others.
While the data is clear that vaccines protect people from the effects of COVID-19, research is ongoing to determine whether a vaccinated person could still transmit the virus to someone else – so in the interests of safety we must assume there is still a risk of transmission.
Community testing needs to continue to focus on reducing barriers to testing and needs to include non-appointment-based options and ensure testing is equitably available for all those with symptoms.
DHB cultural and community liaison roles will have a key role in planning and implementing approaches with our Māori and Pacific communities, health leaders and health providers.
Thank you for your continued commitment to keep Aotearoa New Zealand safe from COVID-19. We appreciate all that you and your teams do, and as always welcome your feedback.
Ngā mihi nui
Group Manager – COVID-19 Testing and Supply