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NZ needs to be doing more Covid-19 testing, Health Minister says

Minister of Health Chris Hipkins says the number of Covid-19 tests being carried out in New Zealand is not high enough, and that current "surveillance testing" numbers need to be lifted.

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Chris Hipkins says he has instructed health agencies to do more Covid-19 testing after a noticeable drop in test numbers. Source: 1 NEWS

New Zealand laboratories yesterday carried 1641 Covid-19 tests, bringing the total to date to 416,924.

However, at today's daily briefing Mr Hipkins indicated that he was unhappy with that number, and said we should be doing a lot more testing.

"I have instructed health officials to ensure that there is an enhanced rate of testing over the next week," Mr Hipkins said.

"In recent days the number of tests that you would have seen processed does not meet the Government's expectations."

Mr Hipkins said a recent change to the clinical guidance provided to healthcare professionals may led to fewer people being tested. 

"My understanding is that it may have changed in the last week or so, so that might have had an impact on the rate of testing," Mr Hipkins said.

"It can be a combination of factors - fewer people asking for testing, fewer people presenting - but it can also be that the clinical guidance may well have been one of the reasons why these numbers have gone down."

Mr Hipkins said while New Zealand doesn't need to be testing at the same level as we did during the peak of community transmission - about 12,000 tests per day - we should be carrying out somewhere nearer 4000 tests per day.

As for who should be getting tested, Mr Hipkins said that was a matter for people's clinicians.

Mr Hipkins said there's no capacity issues for testing - New Zealand can carry out about 13,000 per day if needed.

He would not say whether or not people should be tested if they were feeling unwell, saying that was a matter for their doctor to decide.

"I don't want any New Zealander to think that the reason we're not seeing Covid-19 in the community is that we're not testing for it," Mr Hipkins said.