Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs)

During Phase Three of the health response to Omicron, 'critical services' will have access to Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs) as part of the Close Contact Exemption scheme.

RAT tests are now considered enough to diagnose symptomatic people. The availability of RATs should become more readily available from doctors, pharmacies and community testing centres.

Critical workers who are vaccinated can use RAT tests daily so they can go to work even if they are a household contact, so long as their employer is signed up to the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) close contract exemption scheme (CCES) scheme.

Bulk ordering RAT tests

The Ministry of Health has introduced a process for the bulk ordering of RAT tests, where critical services/businesses – who are registered with the Close Contract Exemption Scheme (CCES) – have worksites with 'more than 15 critical workers who are also household contacts at a worksite'.

If that is the case, the Ministry of Health advises that ‘the below can be used instead of individual workers needing to individually collect RATs from a collection site’.

Process to bulk order 

Please note that any requests to the Ministry of Health for RATs to be supplied outside this purpose will be declined.

If you meet the above criteria, please email covid.healthsupplychain@health.govt.nz with the following information.

  • Business name
  • Business unique identifier from the MBIE CCES system
  • Contact name
  • Contact number
  • Affected worksite that has >15 critical workers who are household contacts
  • Delivery address for the affected worksite
  • Number of critical workers who are currently household contacts
  • Are you currently working with the local public health unit regarding the cases and contacts at your worksite? – Yes/No

Using RATs in the workplace

The Ministry of Health has updated its guidance for Critical Workers using RAT tests.

Click here for a useful chart for workers using daily RAT tests 

Note: Critical workers need to report self-administered RATs online at mycovidrecord.health.nz

Registering as a Critical Service

HortNZ believes the entire horticulture industry falls within the scope of the ‘food production and its supply chain’ category, meaning that horticulture businesses can register as ‘critical services’.

Critical workers identified for the Close Contact Exemption scheme will need to be vaccinated. If at any point they return a positive RAT test, they will need to isolate for 7 days.

Businesses need to register online as a critical service here:
Close Contact Exemption Scheme registration portal — Business Connect

You will need:

  • A RealMe login
  • New Zealand Business Number (NZBN). If you’re a sole trader and don’t have an NZBN, you can enter in your business name
  • Address details for each location that you may have critical workers. You can select a region, and add multiple locations
  • Select a sector category - you may also need to select a sub-category. You can upload supporting PDFs
  • Total number of workers in the business (not just the ones who might be critical)
  • Number of critical workers at each location they’ve listed
  • After completing the above steps, you will see a summary screen and must digitally sign a declaration confirming your details. This will be followed by a confirmation screen.

An email will be sent giving confirmation you are on the register and contain a unique ID number. This email is the ‘Critical Services Register Letter’ that will be one of the documents you need to provide to a worker to collect a RAT (see below).

If you need assistance while registering, you can contact MBIE’s phone line, 8.30am and 5.00pm Monday to Friday (except public holidays).

Freephone: 0800 424 946

Click here to register - Business Connect

Click here for more information

Collecting RATs from a Ministry of Health distribution hub

The Government has stood up a new website to order free RATs from the Ministry of Health: requestrats.covid19.health.nz 

The website enables household contacts of a positive Covid-19 case and anyone showing symptoms to order RAT tests online before collecting from a collection site.

Critical workers who are vaccinated and asymptomatic can also use the site to order RATs as part of the Contact Exemption scheme. The exemption only applies to going to work, not other travel. 

The order form below must be completed by the worker, not the business.

Click here for a graphic that steps you through the ordering process

Click here for the Ministry of Health RAT order form

Please note in some areas, it would appear that RATs are not available yet but we expect that situation to change.  

When collecting RATs from a Ministry of Health distribution hub, you will need:

  • Critical Services Register Letter (see above ‘Registering as a Critical Service’)
  • Critical Worker Authorisation Letter (see above)
  • Workplace ID (if applicable)  
  • Personal ID (e.g. Vaccine Pass)  
  • Your RAT order number.

Documents employers need to provide to workers

Critical service business must provide workers with two documents:

  • A copy of the Critical Services Register letter (see above ‘Registering as a Critical Service’)
  • A critical worker authorisation letter, which must include:
    • a declaration that the business and worker are critical, with a rationale (businesses may include the output of the self-assessment tool)
    • an outline of the protocols the worker will need to follow to mitigate transmission risks
    • the business’s unique identifier from the Critical Services Register letter
    • the worker’s workplace identification (if they have one).

The worker will then be able to order a RAT kit from a Ministry of Health distribution hub. If a business has a private supply of RATs, they can opt to supply a critical worker with these instead.

If using a private supply, the business should still provide the worker with an authorisation letter, as this is evidence that the worker has an exemption from their self-isolation requirements for the purposes of working.