Covid-19

Covid-19: More testing needed, Ardern says

Coronavirus testing is set to increase after government officials loosened the criteria for who should be checked and when

The number of tests for coronavirus is set to ramp up, with health officials relaxing the testing criteria as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called for more testing to be done.

New Zealand's testing regime has been under scrutiny for some time, with people complaining of being turned away despite medical recommendations they get tested.

The matter was at the fore during the inaugural meeting of the epidemic response committee earlier on Tuesday, where Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield indicated a change was coming.

Now, Ardern has confirmed the technical advisory group overseeing the case definition of Covid-19 had agreed to expand it to include people who had symptoms potentially indicative of the virus, but without a link to overseas travel or a close contact who had tested positive.

The new advice would be circulated to Healthline, GPs and community clinics, with the Prime Minister expressing a desire to see testing levels ramp up further.

"I want more tests, we’ve built the capacity for more tests, more tests will only allow us to get a better picture of the spread of Covid-19."

However, she pushed back when asked why the Government had not made such a change earlier, saying New Zealand had already been conducting a high level of tests relative to other countries.

Cabinet has also decided that supermarkets are allowed to open their doors to the public on Easter Sunday but must stay closed on Good Friday, after the Government struck a compromise to ease pressure on shoppers during the coronavirus lockdown.

Some had been calling for the usual restrictions to be lifted to allow the public as much access as possible at a time when movements are heavily restricted.

Ardern said the decision was designed to prevent packed aisles in the lead-in to the long weekend, while still preserving the religious and symbolic significance of the holidays.

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