By PHILIP CHANDLER
A QUEENSTOWN stem cell company’s offering speeded-up testing for the Covid-19 virus spreading the world and locking down New Zealand, and other countries.
Regen Cellular, through its network, claims it has access to hundreds of thousands of 15-minute rapid-testing kits to help with mass testing.
Currently, company boss Emma Hart, a former TV journalist, says testing’s slow because it’s reliant on a lab-based model with strict testing criteria.
“People are only lab-tested if they returned from travelling or have been in direct contact with someone who has been travelling or has tested positive.
“We are suggesting mass testing with our 15-minute rapid-testing kits that do not need a lab, are 96 per cent accurate, are Food and Drug Administration-approved and are done onsite with a finger prick.
“Governments globally are scrambling to buy these kits and ramp up testing as directed by the World Health Organisation.
“Prices have doubled this week, and cargo space is at a premium.
“We wanted to secure a supply line which we hope will be acquired by community leaders here in Queenstown as a priority to test frontline and essential workers.
“The bigger plan would be to test the whole of our town, putting those with a positive test result through a PCR [polymerase chain reaction] test and then isolating them.”
According to Hart, for $2 million, 40,000 people in Queenstown could be tested.
She says Queenstown’s extremely vulnerable because it’s a small town with a tiny hospital without an intensive care unit.
“With a handful of medical personnel, if there was a surge of cases we would be overwhelmed in a heartbeat.
“We would love to be able to sell the kits to district health boards, medical centres and St John, but the government would need to give them the tick of approval before this was to happen.
“We have just heard that St John would love to have these kits in every ambulance.”
Hart believes Queenstown could become a model for other small communities.
“The rapid test kits, we believe, would remove some of the panic and unite communities to look after each other by mass-testing the entire population with the view to restarting life in a much bigger bubble.”