27 Oct 2020

Weekend Covid-19 testing numbers encouraging - Auckland doctor

8:06 am on 27 October 2020

The number of people tested for Covid-19 over the weekend is being seen as an encouraging sign that people are taking the virus seriously.

A health worker conducts a test at a COVID-19 coronavirus testing centre in the suburb of Northcote in Auckland on August 12, 2020.

Photo: AFP

Latest Ministry of Health figures show just around 8500 swabs were taken on Saturday and Sunday, with just under 480 of those at Auckland community testing centres.

The medical director at Northcare Accident and Medical, on Auckland's North Shore, Dr Peter Boot expected testing numbers to drop of over the weekend, like they usually do.

But he was surprised - they had more than 260 people at last count.

"Obviously people on the Shore are quite anxious about the little breakouts that have been associated with the pubs, with the stores, the fitness centre and Rangitoto College."

The centre has been testing people for Covid for months and is now a well-oiled machine ... it also has a bit of music and fairy lights to keep people's spirits up.

Staff are working long days to ensure people get a quick service, Dr Boot said.

"It's been amazing how everybody has stepped up. Our staff has worked right through weekends, holidays and into the evenings to look after the community.

"Nobody is grumbling, everyone is just getting on with the job, which is just testing, testing, testing and not letting this thing get away on us."

"I think we all want to go to the beach this Christmas, and that's foremost in our minds."

Epidemiologist Michael Baker said the number of people coming forward for testing, and staying home when sick, is encouraging.

"I think this is a real revolution in thinking in this country. We've had a long history of when we have these symptoms of soldiering on, going to work or school and it's almost been an element of our national identity.

"That behaviour has got to change completely, and I think Covid-19 has taught us that."

People being vigilant about their health has also led to a major decline in influenza over winter, he added.

Ministry of Health figures show there are now more than 2.3 million Covid tracer users.

Dr Baker applauds the public and health professionals for stamping out small outbreaks of the virus quickly, but he said some processes still need fine tuning.

"We do have examples from overseas now, like Singapore, that are using Bluetooth quite extensively as part of an app, but also for those who don't have a phone, they could be issued with a dongle."

A dongle is similar to a Covid-19 card device that people can carry with them, and use to check in.

Dr Baker said now is the time to pause and reivew the Covid response to see how it can be enhanced, made more sustainable and more affordable.

The full testing figures from the long weekend period will be updated at today's 1pm Ministry of Health Covid briefing.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs