Saliva testing progress supported by Auckland Airport

04 March 2021

News today that the Ministry of Health is actively considering the introduction of saliva-based surveillance testing for COVID-19 is a positive step for frontline border workers and has been welcomed by Auckland Airport.

Adrian Littlewood, Auckland Airport Chief Executive, said the potential for widespread workplace saliva testing would provide another important layer of protection for staff, their whanau, and the communities they live in.

“We’ve been trialling saliva-based testing, in partnership with Rako Science, as a means of deploying reliable, non-invasive surveillance testing across a large workforce, so it’s great to hear the government is continuing to evaluate saliva testing in its quarantine facilities too.”

Since mid-January a collection site has been established in the international terminal and Auckland Airport staff have been volunteering to take part in the programme.

The Rako test programme uses the SHIELD saliva test developed at the University of Illinois, which was last month authorised for use in the United States by the US Federal Drug Administration. It is already validated and accredited in New Zealand.

“We made the decision to launch a saliva testing pilot because we could see that the long-term management of COVID-19 is going to require easy, frequent and cost-effective ways to test our workforce, giving us a better chance of finding positive cases before community transmission,” said Mr Littlewood.

“It’s another tool we can use to prevent the spread of COVID-19. From wearing masks and physical distancing, to nasal-swab tests and vaccination – it’s important that New Zealand’s response to COVID-19 is constantly evolving.”

Frontline staff at Auckland Airport continue to be tested fortnightly as part of the Ministry of Health’s mandatory nasal-swab testing programme.

“Throughout the pandemic, we’ve followed the Ministry of Health’s protocols and guidelines to keep the community safe. This means our staff have had thousands of nasal-swab tests since the requirement for fortnightly testing came in – so they’re understandably enthusiastic about the development of reliable saliva testing.”