Vaccinations and the long-awaited rollout of a government-approved saliva test hope to ease the burden on border workers and aviation staff

New Zealanders working on the front line will soon be afforded some relief from health workers jamming a swab up their nostril on a weekly basis.

Aviation staff and border workers will be able to provide saliva for Covid tests instead of receiving invasive nasal swabs from June.

This will mean some pilots and MIQ workers will only have to receive a nasal swab test once a fortnight, which Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins called “the gold standard” of tests.

It’s a development E tū union delegate and international cabin crew member Tony Quayle was happy to hear about.

“This will be a major advance on what we’ve got at the moment – anything that’s less invasive will be good.”

He said aviation and border workers had expressed concern about the long-term effects of frequent nasal swabs.

“The body isn’t designed to have things going up your nose all the time and repeated trauma to this area is something to consider.”

E tū union head of aviation Savage says these workers have put up with the discomfort of regular swabs for the good of all Kiwis and to keep their communities safe.

“To lessen that imposition on crew, and eventually other border workers, is an incredibly positive step,” he said.

Both E tū representatives spoke about the strenuous tests sometimes required overseas for pilots, on top of the formerly weekly swabs back in New Zealand.

Quayle said it was necessary for pilots and cabin crew to get a nasal swab in both nostrils upon arrival in Shanghai.

“When you’re having that done, combined with compulsory testing back home, it makes you really concerned about the whole process,” he says.

“Even though most of us have been vaccinated, our worlds have become quite uncomfortable with the restrictions and things we are doing to keep people safe. In that sense, the introduction of saliva testing is a big bonus.”

A trial of New Zealand’s first saliva tests began at Auckland Airport in February, but up until now the saliva tests didn’t mean border workers could relax on weekly nasal swabs.

Matthew Scott covers immigration, urban development and Auckland issues.

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