Flag carrier Air New Zealand has entered a partnership with the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) to participate in the saliva Covid-19 testing study.

As part of this partnership, Air New Zealand employees involved in regular surveillance testing according to the Ministry of Health testing order will take part in the study.

The study will determine the effectiveness of saliva in detecting Covid-19. It will also evaluate whether saliva serves an accurate, easy and acceptable method compared with a nasopharyngeal swab test.

Air New Zealand chief medical officer Dr Ben Johnston said: “It’s great to team up with ESR on this trial to see if a faster and more non-invasive option is available as it’s likely surveillance testing for Covid-19 will be required for some time into the future.

“This study will bring us one step closer to looking at the effectiveness of saliva testing, which would greatly improve the experience for our people who are committed to keeping New Zealanders safe.”

The partners recently received approval from the Ministry of Health National Health and Disability Ethics Committee to proceed with the study.

The study is set to start next week and will continue for more than two to three months. It will be conducted alongside the existing nasopharyngeal swab.

ESR will compare the accuracy of both the saliva and regular nasopharyngeal in its laboratories.

ESR chief scientist Dr Brett Cowan said: “This study will go a long way to determining if saliva testing can be added to New Zealand’s toolbox as we look to strengthen our defence against Covid-19.”

In a separate development, Air New Zealand has extended its Covid-19 international schedule until 30 June due to the ongoing travel restrictions and low passenger demand.