COVID-19 Testing oversight group and terms of reference

  • Hon Chris Hipkins

The full membership of the COVID-19 Surveillance and Testing Strategy Group and its terms of reference have been announced today by Minister of Health Chris Hipkins.

The group, co-chaired by Sir Brian Roche and Heather Simpson, is set up to provide additional advice to the Government and oversee its surveillance and testing plans.

”The group will report to me on the implementation of the updated COVID-19 testing plan and the surveillance plan and will work with government agencies and stakeholders, including private sector employers and unions, to gather useful information,” Chris Hipkins said.

“It will focus on:

  • ensuring cases are rapidly identified,
  • identifying and minimising any undetected community spread,
  • monitoring people at higher risk of exposure, and
  • ensuring Maori and Pasifika people gain effective and equitable access to testing.

“I’ve commissioned the group to focus on current testing activity and have appointed it for four weeks. It will identify any barriers and improvements that are needed,” Chris Hipkins said.

“This is a tricky virus, but comprehensive border and surveillance testing will continue to play a role in helping us to pick up any new cases and deploy contact tracing quickly.

“All aspects of the surveillance and testing plans will be in scope, including in the community, at the border, and at managed isolation and quarantine facilities.

“The Group’s formation represents another key step in our ongoing battle against COVID-19. As has been our approach from the start, we are continuously reviewing our systems and finding ways to improve. That approach will continue.

“Nearly every country in the world is experiencing new cases. The global pandemic is growing outside our borders, so testing is a key part of managing the risk of COVID reappearing and limiting its impact.

“Regular COVID testing needs to be part of our new normal. Our plan will ensure anyone with flu-like symptoms will get tested, we deliver regular asymptomatic testing of border staff.

“This is a big operation. We already have among the highest rates of testing in the world for the number of cases we have and are well positioned globally, but we can do even better to reduce the risk of new cases further.

“No system is fool proof, but the work of this committee will strengthen the extensive testing already done and forms a key part of our ongoing elimination strategy and identification and management of future cases.

“The Ministry of Health continues to perform well in its leadership of the COVID-19 health response,” Chris Hipkins said.           

The other members of the groups, announced today, are:

  • Dr Api Talemaitoga - GP, chair of NZ College of GPs Pacific Chapter.
  • Dr Rawiri Jansen - GP, Papakura.
  • Professor Philip Hill - McAuley Professor of International Health and Director of the Centre for International at the University of Otago.