The RAT race has begun.
A second free rapid antigen test (RAT) collection site has opened in Christchurch, after the only site in the city had queues stretching for two miles.
Free rapid antigen tests are now available for home testing for symptomatic people and household contacts.
Are you experiencing delays at a RAT community collection point? Email [email protected]
But they must be ordered through the Healthpoint website, which was running slowly on Thursday due to demand.
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Traffic around the Orchard Rd site was causing delays for people trying to get to the city’s airport on Thursday. A new site at Wigram was added to the website in the afternoon.
The two-mile queues on both sides of the road in and around Christchurch Airport were “breathtaking”, said airport spokeswoman Yvonne Densem.
People coming from the north of the city should take the Harewood Rd exit and use the ramp to access Memorial Ave, she said.
“We are advising people to keep going and not enter Orchard Rd to get to the airport while we are listed as the only testing site.”
Dr Api Talemaitoga from Cavendish Doctors explains how to test yourself for Covid-19 with a rapid antigen test (RAT). It’s quick, easy and virtually painless.
Outside of Christchurch, the nearest RAT collection point in Canterbury is Coldstream Rd Hockey Ground in Rangiora, at least a 30 minute drive from central Christchurch.
“Someone needs to ask the government why Christchurch only has one RAT pickup in the whole city,” Christchurch man Tom Shand said as he waited in the queue.
The traffic was causing “major disruption” to nearby businesses, including Snap Rental’s Orchard Rd branch, said founder and chief operating officer Patrick Broadbent.
Broadbent had repeatedly complained to the airport, the police and the test station asking for traffic management to be put in place.
“Staff at the test station are forced to work on the road in the middle of traffic,” he said. “People line up for hours before being told they won’t be tested.
“A simple sign at the front of the queue would solve this problem.
“I am increasingly annoyed by the mishandling of this, which is a major health and safety issue and sometimes prevents us from operating our business.”
Christchurch Councilor Yani Johanson said he was ‘flabbergasted’ that a collection point had not been set up in east Christchurch, and emailed the chief executive of council, Dawn Baxendale, on this Thursday morning.
“It’s great that this online system has been put in place to allow faster collection of RATs for those who need them, but it seems inherently unfair that those east of town have to go at the airport.”
While the Canterbury District Health Board website refers to the Whānau Ora testing center (at 250 Pages Road, Wainoni) open for RAT collections, the Healthpoint website, where people should go to register , does not.
The Department of Health and Canterbury District Health Board have been contacted for comment.
There are 147 collection sites, 106 testing centers and 21 Covid-19 support providers nationwide.
With participating pharmacies and GPs, there are over 500 access points for RATs, with additional sites continuing to open across the country.
The Ministry of Health plans to have 1,000 sites across the country where RATs will be available by the end of March.
According to the Department of Health, there are four community collection sites in Auckland, while Wellington and Northland have just one each.
By contrast, Southland has 10, including two in Gore, which has a population of just over 13,000. Central Lakes has six, Nelson-Marlborough has three, and Hawke’s Bay has seven.
At Thursday’s 1 p.m. Covid press conference, Chief Health Officer Ashley Bloomfield said the country’s supply of rapid antigen tests continued to grow.
As of Wednesday, 3.6 million RATs arrived in the country and 101 million have been confirmed for delivery this month.
On Thursday, a further 3.5 million RATs were sent to health boards, and 1.3 million were sent to primary healthcare organizations for distribution to GPs over the weekend.
“I just want to stress that GPs are not collection points for rapid antigen tests. If you need to be assessed because you are not feeling well, you should make an appointment with a GP and they will determine what test you may need,” Bloomfield said.
Since Tuesday, $65,000 worth of RATs have been ordered online and more than 1,000 orders have been placed by phone, he said.
Before going to a collection site, people should place an order via https://requestrats.covid19.health.nz/ or by calling 0800 222 478.
Canterbury RAT Community Collection Sites
– Orchard Road Testing Centre, 174 Orchard Road, Harewood, Christchurch (near airport) – open 9am-4pm.
– Wigram Testing Center, 35 Mustang Avenue, Wigram open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
– Waimakariri – community collection site, Hockey turf, 291 Coldstream Road, Rangiora – open 9am-3pm.
– Ashburton Covid-19 Testing Centre, 48 South Street, Ashburton (entrance from Cass Street) – open 10am-2pm.