Saturday, November 27

Nasal swabs at Auckland border will delay deliveries: truck drivers

Truck drivers and other essential workers crossing the Auckland border are preparing to get nasal swabs once a week, as saliva tests are not yet available to non-border workers.

A police checkpoint in Mercer, near the Auckland-Waikato border.

A police checkpoint in Mercer, near the Auckland-Waikato border.
Photo: RNZ / Nick Monro

On Friday, the new testing regime kicks off, requiring all essential workers who come out of Auckland’s Tier 4 boundary to show a negative result from the past seven days.

However, the Health Ministry said that although the requirement to take the test begins on Friday, September 10, it will not begin to review the tests until Friday, the 17th, a full week later. this part of the new Public Health Order goes into effect.

The ministry said this allows time to “finalize arrangements” for cross-border testing.

At this stage, truckers are lining up at public test stations to get nasal swabs, which they say is delaying deliveries.

The saliva test is as accurate as a nasal swab, a University of Victoria study found. Anyone can take it at home anytime, in just one minute, and then send it in for processing as a standard nasopharyngeal swab.

Nick Leggett from the Road Transport Forum said the inability at this stage to use saliva testing will slow down the entire supply chain because it requires them to visit a testing center.

“Yesterday we had a truck driver in Auckland who was waiting more than two hours for a test. That comes down to his legal driving hours. If we do that to too many drivers, we are going to delay the delivery of the cargo.”

The ministry said it is “finalizing a contract with another saliva testing provider” for those crossing the border from level 4, but did not say when they will be available.

“We are awaiting details of that. It is unclear at this stage who will be the Ministry of Health’s preferred saliva testing agent, and how truck operators can be deployed to complete testing on their staff,” Leggett said.

Alan MacDonald of the Employers and Manufacturers Association said industry and government agencies seemed a bit surprised when the weekly testing requirement was announced.

He said there is no system in place to smoothly administer the additional tests needed.

“I heard yesterday that some truck drivers went to the test stations to get tested and were turned away because they had no symptoms. I think this is an example of having an idea and trying to implement policies on the fly without having the process behind it. him and after having thought about how it is really going to work. “

He said the agencies have told them they will smooth the process before the requirements go into effect. He believes that it is unlikely that it will be before Friday and that the implementation of the requirement could be delayed.

MacDonald said an en route saliva test station is the logical setup.

“For the border, some kind of dedicated or established border checkpoint, not right at the border because that would slow everything down, but somewhere on both sides where someone can drive, drip into the tube, bag and tag it, and keep driving. , so there is minimal delay. “

He says there are at least 4,000 truck drivers using the southern border a day and other retail workers crossing the border.

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