Doctors fear Kiwis will not even be able to get tested for COVID-19 when the country experiences tens of thousands of cases a day and there are not enough tests to go around.

Doctors fear there won’t be enough tests for Kiwis when daily cases are in the tens of thousands.© Image: Newshub, Video: Newshub

But a deal just struck by entrepreneur Sir Ian Taylor to import 25 million rapid antigen tests (RATs) may just help.

Everyone’s expecting testing lines will lengthen as Omicron takes hold. The fear is that when the daily caseload hits the tens of thousands they will soon be overwhelmed and people with symptoms won’t even be able to get tested.

“PCR lab testing will be at capacity, I do not think there’ll be enough rapid antigen tests to cope, therefore we’ll get to a situation with anyone with symptoms will be assumed to have COVID until proven otherwise,” Royal College of GPs medical director Bryan Betty says.

View on Watch

This is what happened in New South Wales when there weren’t enough tests, if it happens here general practitioners hope people with symptoms will isolate without being told to.

But behind the scenes, a group of Kiwi businesses has been organising a solution and suddenly RATs are coming in the millions.

The breakthrough came in a meeting between the Director-General of Health and the entrepreneur Sir Ian Taylor nine days ago.

The Orient Gene test has a success rate of 97.4 percent and costs $5.20 a kit. It will start arriving in the middle of next month – and the lawyer who helped procure the deal hopes it’s just in time.

“God pray, I wish this had happened earlier. I think New Zealand and businesses and the government have coordinated more in this last week than I’ve really seen in my lifetime. I really think New Zealand got together on this in everyone’s interest,” Kudu Spectrum lawyer Kahungunu Barron-Afeaki SC says.

The deal is for 25 million RATs for government testing, with a separate 1.1 million for 23 large businesses.

“We needed to get ourselves at the top of the priority list on testing and we didn’t do that. I’m just hoping that this thing that is moving at a great rate of knots will help rectify that,” entrepreneur Sir Ian Taylor says.

Not only that, Sir Ian says this enables RATs to be distributed cheaply to smaller companies. That’s currently illegal but it only needs the Government’s approval to change that.

“The supply that’s coming in is really, really cost-effective and Foodstuffs have agreed that they will bring it in and pass it on at cost of distribution and that’s an incredible offer,” Sir Taylor says.

The tests can’t get here soon enough. 

Letters to people in MIQ at the Sudima in Rotorua tell them to be prepared for a delayed exit because even now the Ministry’s under such strain it’s prioritising community testing over MIQ testing.