Free rapid antigen tests now available for home testing

Rapid antigen tests can be ordered through a new website and picked up from a collection site.

If you are symptomatic or a Household Contact, you can now order rapid antigen tests (RATs) through the newly launched RAT requester website.

Request a RAT (external link)

"It’s one of a range of ways we are make testing more readily available for those who need it," says Jo Pugh, Acting Group Manager of COVID-19 Testing and Supply at the Ministry of Health.

"We have a good supply of RATs to meet demand during Phase 3 of our Omicron response.

"On top of the 15 million that arrived last week, 2.6 million RATs arrived on Tuesday, followed by a delivery of 5.1 million RATs on Wednesday.

"These new RATs are flowing through the supply chain and into collection sites where they can be accessed by anyone assessed as needing one."

There are 146 collection sites, 106 testing centres, and 21 providers supporting our priority population groups nationwide. And with the addition of participating pharmacies and doctors, there are now more than 500 access points for RATs, with additional sites continuing to be opened across the motu.

"The ability to place an order online ensures that the process is smoother when people go to collect them. It also means that the whole whānau don’t need to queue up at the testing centre when one person in the household gets sick, because you’ll be able to collect RATs for everyone in your household," says Jo Pugh.

"People can still access free RATs without an order via Community Testing Centres, but only for an eligible individual.

"RATs are also available for purchase in some retail stores now for people who are not unwell or household contacts but want a RAT for other reasons.

"We want to make sure that getting tested is as easy as possible for people — it is an important part of our strategy to slow the spread of the virus to keep the pressure off hospitals. 

"The website also contains features to prevent people from ordering too many RATs to ensure that everyone who needs one can get one. These include order limits by address and phone number."

Jo Pugh says doctors will also be using RATs as part of clinical consultations, where appropriate. They will not generally be distributing to the public outside this regime.

"By the end of March, we expect to build up the number of places where RATs are available to 1000 sites around the country, so the majority of New Zealanders can access a free RAT within 20 minutes driving distance.  

The Ministry of Health is also exploring options to deliver RATs to those to order them.

The tool is a timely initiative following large shipments of RATs into the country, says Jo Pugh.

"In the past 7 days, more than 7.7 million RATs have been dispatched from our central supply. And DHBs are working hard to push them out to the system.

"Increased use of RATs will ease some of the pressure on our laboratories over the next 3 to 6 weeks, while helping to ensure critical services and supply chains remain operational, our most vulnerable communities are protected, and our economy keeps moving."

How to order

Requesting RATs on the requester site is an easy step-by-step process. RATs can be requested on behalf of someone else. People will need to have access to a mobile phone to validate their order.

You will be issued an order number. You can then collect your RAT order from a collection site listed on Healthpoint, or have someone collect it for you.

Where to collect RATs | (external link)

For people are not unwell or a Household Contact but want to get a RAT for other purposes, such as to visit an elderly relative, there are retail options now, including the Chemist Warehouse and Countdown.

So far, more than 9 million RATs have been distributed. This includes:

  • more than 3 million RATs to DHBs and community collection sites
  • 1.3 million to Primary Health Organisations
  • more than 1 million for aged care
  • more than 800,000 to doctors and Urgent Care
  • more than 600,000 to Pharmacies
  • more than 650,000 RATs to first responders and other government agencies.

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