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Ministry of Health tells GPs and pharmacies to stock up on COVID-19 rapid antigen tests


Mask up New Zealand, because from now on, you'll be required to wear a mask at most indoor venues unless you are eating, drinking or exercising - and the way we test for COVID-19 is about to get a major shake-up too.

From February 3, masks must be worn at food and drink businesses, events, gatherings and close proximity businesses like hairdressers. There is an exception for eating, drinking and exercising.

Children will have to mask up on public transport too.

"As much as possible, in environments where you're not distancing, good practice is to wear a mask," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at her post-Cabinet press conference on Tuesday.

Workforces with mask mandates will be required to wear medical-grade masks. But for the general public, it still doesn't matter which mask you choose - a cloth, medical-grade, or N95 - as long as it's actually a mask.

"A bandana's not good enough, a scarf won't provide you protection, and a T-shirt definitely won't," Ardern said.

The founder of New Zealand N95 mask manufacturer Lanaco says the Government must update its advice.

"If everyone in the world was wearing P2 N95 masks correctly fitted, there would be no COVID in the world."

But Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield says they're too pricey.

"We're not going to be recommending the use of N95s for the general public and going about your daily business, partly because they are expensive."

Our whole COVID-19 strategy needs a rethink with Omicron - testing too. The Government says surge capacity for regular PCR testing is now about 78,000 tests, but that surge can only be sustained for seven days.

Lab technician Terry Taylor says that it relies on pooling test samples.


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