Outward Bound students among the first to use 'interesting' rapid antigen testing
Outward Bound students in Marlborough are among the first to try rapid antigen testing for Covid-19.
The December intake of 100 students arrived at the Anakiwa campus on Thursday afternoon, where they were greeted with a karakia and welcome ceremony, and a swab up the nose.
But there was no three-day wait for these test results – they were Rapid Antigen Tests, meaning results took only 10 minutes to come through.
Arrotex Pharmaceuticals had supplied Outward Bound with some of the first Rapid Antigen Tests in the country, so the outdoor education charity could continue in confidence offering courses to students.
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Arrotex New Zealand general manager Colin Armstrong was a supporter of Outward Bound, and said young people needed access to experiences like Outward Bound now more than ever.
School director Hamish Reid said the tests were an efficient safeguard against Covid-19 getting into the campus and causing any closures.
A typical student would spend three weeks in very close proximity to 13 other watchmates, doing activities such as sailing, rock-climbing and swimming, as well as sharing a cabin, when they weren’t sleeping outdoors.
“So these tests will helps us add another layer of protection ... and I think we’re fortunate to be able to roll it out so soon.”
Sarah Hogg, 21, of Dunedin, winced as she swabbed her nostrils thoroughly, but said it was still better than the normal Covid swab, which went much further up the nostril.
“It was fine, it was easy - it was very pleasant,” she said.
Adam Scammell, 18, also of Dunedin, said the swab was “interesting”. “Well it was something different,” he said.
The non-profit organisation relied heavily on donations and had closed during alert levels 3 and 4. One of those lockdowns meant students had to go home halfway through their course, Reid said.
“And in level 2 we had to change what we do, and that’s meant a lot more work for us, and a slightly different experience for the students ... and we couldn't accept students from regions still in alert level 3. That’s been really frustrating for those students.”
So the move into the Covid-19 Protection Framework was also great timing, Reid said.
“And the tests do two things for us; it gives us a lot more certainty when people have just arrived that they’re all safe ... and it also gives us the ability to screen out things that can be challenging,” Reid said.
For example students often arrived with hayfever symptoms at this time of year, and under normal Covid-19 protocol they would have to take a Covid test and then isolate for three days until the result came back from the lab.
“This Rapid Antigen Test will allow us to continue much faster. Although, it’s not diagnostic – if the person had a whole suite of symptoms – or if they test positive – they would still need to isolate.”
While no students had tested positive for Covid-19 to date, the new Nelson cases had reinforced the risk of it spreading into Marlborough, Reid said.
Once the tests were available at home, Outward Bound would ask students to test themselves before they came to the school.
The tests had been approved for businesses this week, and the public could buy them from pharmacies from December 15.
Outward Bound chief executive Malindi Maclean said she was thrilled the charity was one of the first to offer the tests.
“With almost 2000 students making the pilgrimage to Outward Bound from different regions every year, some spending 21 days in the close company of their watch of 13 other students, it’s vital they can come with the confidence they’re keeping themselves and others safe.”