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On-site surveillance saliva PCR testing even more critical now

The fast, reliable on-site surveillance saliva PCR Covid screening used by Napier Port since November 2021 is exactly the type of solution businesses need to buffer them from Omicron, says CEO Todd Dawson.

“There are practical, highly-accurate, Covid testing solutions that businesses can implement almost immediately, but they have been lost in the poor planning and politics surrounding the import of rapid antigen tests” Mr Dawson said.

“Without some form of surveillance testing, workplaces have no capability to manage the spread pro-actively and clear people to return to work in a timely way.

“The lack of availability of on-the-ground testing, constrained supplies, and government ministries commandeering future supplies, compounds the problem for businesses” Mr Dawson said.

“Supply chains are already under pressure, and with the potential for Omicron to take out vast swaths of people from the workforce having no testing capability onsite to help minimise spread or clear workers to return to work, is a big problem and one that could have been easily avoided with some advanced planning”.

NZX-listed Napier Port has been using NZ-manufactured, Ubiquitome’s Liberty16 real time PCR unit to surveillance test its 330-strong workforce (and around 50 close contact contractors) every second day since November 2021. PCR testing is the gold standard for Covid testing and the unit has United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency use approval when paired with SalivaDirect™, a sample collection protocol from Yale University’s School of Public Health.

Napier Port has been doing around 1,000 surveillance tests a week, but with Omicron that has ramped up, with workers tested daily instead of every second day.

“Our people, customers and supply chain partners are hugely supportive of our testing, it gives them confidence that everyone at Napier Port is doing as much as they can to keep each other safe and stay operational. We come in, we do our sample, and we know we’re going to hear in a couple of hours if there is any potential infection. The best thing is, because it’s early detection, it should be picked up before the person is contagious”.

The Ubiquitome unit can detect a non-negative result on day 2 of infection, before a person becomes contagious at day 4, which is why it’s so suitable for businesses trying to manage the spread across their workforce and also for clearing people to return to work.

“Surveillance testing has given us comfort that we can quickly identify people who potentially have Covid infection, get them the support they need, minimise risk of wider spread and stay operational” Mr Dawson said.

Mr Dawson gave credit to local public health, who throughout the pandemic have been excellent to work with, and who have been involved every step of the way with the port’s testing protocol and were very supportive.

The costs of surveillance screening is completely funded by Napier Port, there is no burden on the public health system. “If we can alleviate any pressure on the public system by doing more ourselves, then that’s a good thing too” added Mr Dawson.

The cost per test is substantially lower than RATs, which are difficult to source and compared to the cost of closing the port, or any business, it’s also substantially lower.

Napier Port has also helped around 50 other businesses across New Zealand to source units and implement training processes and protocols to use them correctly. It is also undertaking testing for a small number of other businesses, where it’s practical to do so, such as those coming on to port etc.

“In the coming months, we have real concerns for other businesses who either haven’t been able to get access to rapid testing, be it saliva PCR or antigen tests” Mr Dawson said.

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