20 Apr 2021

Covid-19 pandemic 'a real journey' for lab testing industry

9:41 am on 20 April 2021

A lab worker somewhere in New Zealand will process the country's two-millionth Covid-19 test in the coming week.

Covid-19 respiratory sputum specimen swab test tube with gloves.

A Covid-19 test tube and swab (file image). Photo: Jenya/123rf

It's a significant milestone for a usually quiet industry that has played a vital role in New Zealand's pandemic response - Covid-19 tests and genomic testing.

New Zealand Institute of Medical Laboratory Science president Terry Taylor told Morning Report: "I'm sure we will know (when the test happens), the Ministry of Health keep a pretty good tab on how many tests are going through at the moment. We at around 1,975,000 at the moment so around about Sunday or Monday next week," Taylor said.

Getting the system to a point where it could process so many tests had been a "challenge", he said.

"The pandemic has really thrust us right into the front line of primary health care in New Zealand. It's been a real journey for us.

"We've never had a pandemic like this in New Zealand before and ... to see the changes, the technology advancements, the quick and efficient way we've gone about things, and also how we've move the testing around the whole of the country now. Most major centres have testing now.

"We've managed to get a pretty good system in place and we were prepared for any of the surges as well, and for us to be moving forward we really have to be ready for anything that's thrown at us."

The system's capacity was 20,000 tests per day at the moment, Taylor said.

"We could probably go a wee bit further than that as well."

As a whole, the various different companies within the industry had worked well together, he said.

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