Rapid Antigen Tests

Rapid Antigen Tests

Guidance on how to get Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) for symptomatic and asymptomatic testing in the education sector

Provision of RAT kits

Early learning services, schools and kura

We will proactively distribute additional RAT kits to allow them to continue to provide these to symptomatic children, students and staff for the first two weeks of Term 2.

Early learning services that have opted into assurance testing of staff will also receive test kits to allow this to continue for a further two weeks. 

Specialist schools, special needs units, and school hostels

RAT kits will be proactively distributed to them to allow for twice weekly asymptomatic testing for staff on a voluntary basis over winter (until the end of Term 3 in September). 

This longer extension recognises the greater vulnerability of students in specialist schools and special needs units and that students in school hostels are living in a residential setting where transmission risks remain higher than in other settings. 

If you want to opt out of the RAT distribution

If you do not want your early learning service, school or kura to be included in this distribution anymore, please email RapidAntigen.TestOrdering@education.govt.nz by 20 April 2022, indicating you do not require more RAT kits.

Delivery timeframes

Ahead of Term 2, distribution of these kits will start on 28 April 2022. All early learning services, schools and kura that have not opted out will receive them from the week beginning 2 May. If you have not opted out and have not received your kits by 13 May, please email RapidAntigen.TestOrdering@education.govt.nz.

Private schools are eligible

Private schools will now be able to opt in to receive a supply of RAT kits for the testing of asymptomatic students and staff if they agree to pay the costs of distribution. This aligns the approach to RAT kits with that for the supply of masks. 

To receive a supply of RAT kits, email the Ministry with information on the number of staff and students at the school: RapidAntigen.TestOrdering@education.govt.nz.

When to offer symptomatic testing

Testing should be offered to any child, young person or staff member present at your early learning service, school or kura with COVID-19 symptoms. A list of symptoms is available at the Unite Against COVID-19 website.

COVID symptoms – Unite against COVID-19

Staff members with symptoms can administer the test themselves.

For children and young people who are symptomatic or became symptomatic while present at their early learning service or school, we expect that tests will usually be administered at home. We recommend that younger children with symptoms are collected by a parent or caregiver and the test provided to the parent or caregiver to administer at home.

These RAT kits do not replace existing health measures in schools and early learning services. Schools and early learning services should continue to follow applicable health measures.

Testing is voluntary.

This is a short-term measure to complement those already in place (including vaccination, face masks, sound hygiene practices and ventilation) during the peak of Omicron in a region.

Specific settings where asymptomatic RAT testing can be applied

Regular asymptomatic testing of staff available to early learning services, specialist school and special needs units, and school hostels for the following reasons:

  • Under- fives do not a have access to vaccination, cannot wear face masks, are less likely to follow public health precautions (eg not putting hands in mouth, covering coughs, etc) and may have younger siblings who are more vulnerable or a mother who is pregnant.
  • Vaccination is available to students in specialist schools and special needs units, but other mitigation measures can be more difficult to maintain and some students more medically fragile. Staff in school hostels are being offered the opportunity to opt in given the residential living arrangements.

If you choose to opt into asymptomatic testing, staff should test themselves twice weekly, a minimum of three days apart.  Any staff member who has recently recovered from a COVID-19 infection (ie within the last 90 days) should not participate in asymptomatic testing, as the test is likely to detect traces of the virus from the earlier infection. Testing is voluntary. If a person does have symptoms, they should complete a test immediately, outside of the twice weekly scheme.

If you're also accessing the Close Contact Exemption Scheme

This does not replace the Close Contact Exemption Scheme.

You can, however, use the supply of RATs we are providing for symptomatic testing if you're also accessing the Close Contact Exemption Scheme. You no longer need to contact the Ministry of Education or provide us with the details of who you are exempting from the legal requirement to isolate at home.

Please remember that the Close Contact Exemption Scheme remains a last resort so you have the minimum number of adults required onsite, to safely supervise children that need to be there. It remains a way for you to enable ‘critical staff’ who are vaccinated and asymptomatic household contacts of a COVID-19 case to continue to work. If you are exempting staff who are otherwise legally required to isolate, you should assure yourself that you are complying with its requirements. This includes registering on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Critical Services Register.

How to use RATs

How to use RATs – Ministry of Health

What to do if you have a positive test result

Any positive cases should be reported via the normal processes and all results, both positive and negative, should be entered by the individual in their My COVID-19 Record.

How to report RATs result – Unite against COVID-19

If you have COVID-19 – Unite against COVID-19

No need to report to Ministry about use of RATs

You do not need to report to us on the use of the tests we provide to you.

The Ministry will collect information on the number of schools and early learning services that opt in, their locations, and the number of rapid antigen tests provided.