23 Jun 2020

Covid-19 test queues grow as cold season hits

From Checkpoint, 5:29 pm on 23 June 2020

People are waiting up to four hours for a Covid-19 test as winter ills combine with fears about new cases to create massive queues at community testing centres.

Drivers queuing outside the Panmure Langimiele health centre today reported sore throats, runny noses and cold-like symptoms.

Many had been waiting between one and a half and two hours - but said getting tested was the right thing to do to keep Covid-19 free.

However, one woman said she had seen at least 15 cars leave in the 90 minutes she had been waiting.

The clinic's operations lead, Pauline Fuimaono Sanders, said wait-times had jumped from between 15 to 30 minutes two weeks ago, to between two and four hours.

Yesterday was their busiest day yet, with 191 tests, up from the 30 to 40 tests they had been doing for most of alert level 1.

"I think people are getting worried… I guess the main thing to remember is that the new cases are in quarantine hotels, not in the community. 

"But I think because we had an increase in numbers it's just making people worried."

There were about a dozen staff onsite at the clinic today, and another six in two mobile testing teams visiting quarantine hotels.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield today reiterated there was no community transmission of Covid-19 - and said the increase in people presenting was partly because of winter ills and respiratory symptoms, and awareness of new cases over the past week.

"There will be thousands of tests being done every day and we can do up to 12,000 a day if necessary."

Yesterday there 4303 tests completed at laboratories around the country.

Minister of Health David Clark announced this afternoon ramped-up testing at the border, as well as monitoring DHB testing across the country.

"We'll be requiring DHBs to take specific actions to increase access to testing for population groups where there is significant variation to national or regional average rates.

"The Ministry will also make clear to DHBs the government's expectation that there will continue to be a low bar to meet to obtain a Covid-19 test."