Businesses desperate to increase rapid antigen testing

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Businesses desperate to ramp up rapid testing of workers to prevent spread of Omicron are upset at the Government’s rationing of test kits. 

Free Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) are only available to critical businesses when an asymptomatic worker is exposed to a positive COVID-19 case, then allowing them to skip self-isolation and continue working if they return a negative RAT. 

But businesses ranging from construction and transport companies to medical equipment suppliers claim that this approach is too restrictive, with more regular testing of employees needed now. 

Construction sector is not classed as critical, therefore not eligible for free RAT tests. Some in the sector are concerned about there being adequate supply of RATs for purchase, which subject to availability, can be purchased by any business with a registered New Zealand Business Number (NZBN), with costs ranging between $8 to $14 per RAT. 

Construction Industry Council executive director Graham Burke says the average building company has five employees, so if they were to lose a third of them to COVID-19 or isolation requirements, that would be a significant hit, as would supply chain shortages if the likes of cement handling or steel mill workforces were greatly reduced. 

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