Ryman Healthcare and Hill Laboratories have teamed up to introduce fast-track COVID-19 saliva tests at Ryman villages. Ryman has contracted Hill to carry out saliva tests to offer an extra reassurance following the recent emergence of community cases of COVID-19 in Auckland.

Staff at Ryman’s Auckland villages are completing the saliva tests.

Ryman Healthcare Chief Operations Officer Cheyne Chalmers said the Hill tests were an exciting new development in the campaign to keep Ryman’s villages free of COVID-19.

“Being able to test staff quickly, accurately and efficiently is an important extra safeguard for us.

“We want to do everything we can to keep the virus out. Being able to test ourselves with the help of the Hill Laboratories team means we can support the government testing programme and help speed up the testing process which is reassuring for both our residents and our team.’’

Hill Laboratories developed the saliva test for use in aged care last year.

During the first lockdown in March/April 2020 aged care operators, including Ryman, approached the Hill team for assistance with testing because of difficulties in getting access to tests.

While no testing was performed at that time, the Ryman and the Hill team continued working together in the months since then.

Hill Laboratories Chief Executive Dr Jonathan Hill said his team developed and validated a method for testing for the SARS-CoV-2 virus (COVID-19) in saliva samples in August last year.

More recently, Hill Laboratories has implemented the ‘SalivaDirect’ test, which was developed and published by the Yale School of Public Health, with the US FDA granting this methodology Emergency Use Authorisation on August 15 2020.

“While roughly equivalent in terms of accuracy and sensitivity to the current nasopharyngeal swab PCR methodology being widely employed in New Zealand, the primary advantage of the new SalivaDirect methodology is that it tests saliva, rather than nasopharyngeal swabs,’’ Dr Hill said.

“So, sample collection is non-invasive and can be performed by the donor alone by simply spitting into a pottle, without the requirement for trained sample collection personnel wearing PPE.’’

The SalivaDirect test is also a simple test, so the cost is considerably lower, making it more feasible to be used by companies for the purpose of proactive screening of asymptomatic people in high-risk environments.