COVID-19: The employers’ and manufacturers’ association says New Zealand is ‘unprepared’ for Omicron and must order further testing

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It’s a simple concept: spit, twirl, wait.

“You have your test, a cup of tea, biscuits, coffee – whatever. If you test positive you can’t go to the office, if you test negative you go to work,” explains Alan McDonald, who Head of Advocacy and Strategy at the Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA).

Overseas it has been dubbed “the big sick” – the large number of people absent from work and isolating because of COVID-19. It has resulted in empty supermarket shelves and canceled planes and trains.

The EMA says to avoid the same fate the government needs to order more testing – and fast.

“We now need tens of millions of rapid antigen tests in the country – and we’re really concerned, the perception is and the reality for us is that we are underprepared,” McDonald said.

As of Friday, there were 18 new cases in the community and 43 at the border. Analysis by Newshub shows that the threat posed by Omicron’s rapid overseas spread is now greater than the Aotearoa delta eruption.

“MIQ is not tight,” says infectiologist Kurt Krause.

The delta eruption is still spreading and three Auckland bars were listed as places of interest on Friday. But it’s Omicron that’s of growing concern to the Department of Health.

The Department of Health says if an infiltration of omicron into the community resulted in an outbreak, omicron would likely be the predominant variant in New Zealand within two to four weeks.

But Prof. Krause says RATs with the Omicron variant may not be as effective.

Currently, RATs are only available from pharmacies for the unvaccinated.

A week ago, the Director of Public Health, Dr. Caroline McElnay, Newshub that there will be an announcement on RATs for the vaccinated public this week.

But the Ministry of Health could not provide an update today.

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