Queues hundreds of metres long and up to five hours long have greeted Aucklanders wanting to be tested for Covid-19 on the first day of the new level 4 lockdown.
It was also a long wait for those wanting tests in other parts of the country, including Christchurch where a testing centre near the city’s airport stretched 1.8km at one stage.
In Hamilton, Waikato District Health Board told residents an extra Hamilton testing site was being set up at Claudelands Event Centre on Brooklyn Rd from noon.
“Traffic is heavy at our Founders site already so please consider waiting until this afternoon.”
Some people lined up before testing stations opened and by just after 9am more than 140 cars were backed up 600m down Seabreeze Rd, Devonport, and in the adjacent Woodall Park car park where testing was occurring.
By noon, testing staff were handing out cookies and water to those waiting.
Graham and Lindy Macdonald were about fourth in line to get a test at the Devonport testing centre.
Both had cold-like symptoms.
“I heard it was on the North Shore and I thought ‘the North Shore’s a big place’ and then [I said] ‘oh god, it’s in Devonport’,” Graham said.
The first community case identified yesterday, which sparked the snap countrywide level 4 lockdown, was a Devonport man.
Also in the queue was Sharon, an essential worker from Devonport, who – along with those in about 40 other cars – was turned away from the Northcote testing centre last night because of high demand.
Lines at Northcote were no better this morning, trailing almost 1km and forcing some buses to mount the kerb to get past. Some people said they had been waiting three hours to get tested – although some arrived before the centre opened.
At the Balmoral testing centre, Newstalk ZB reporter Emme McKay said she was turned away late morning.
About 200 cars were waiting, and she was turned away by staff who said there was a five-hour wait.
At Whitecross St Luke’s, near the central city, the queue stretched 500m, and there were also long waits at North Harbour stadium in Albany.
Auckland City Hospital nurse Sangita Singh, 40, who worked on the same ward as the hospital staff member who tested positive for the virus, was among those in line.
She had been waiting more than two hours as of about 10am, and had a way to go.
Management had told her and colleagues to get tested.
“I think we are all a bit panicky. I’m scared for my family and those who I’ve contacted [recently].”
By afternoon demand had eased at some sites.
Carlin Dunn, 24, was about eight vehicles from the front of the Wairau valley testing site queue about 3pm.
A security guard at the site said it had been quite quiet earlier in the afternoon before word spread of this site being opened.
People were being told there was a 30-minute wait for testing.
Demand at the North Harbour Stadium site in Albany was much less than earlier in the afternoon, according to one Red Badge official.
They’d been referring lots of people to the Wairau Valley site and now his colleagues there had told him to stop directing people away to Wairau Valley because it was getting busy, he said about 3.30pm.
There had been some kind of technical issue which had slowed progress at North Harbour Stadium.
Those were “first day jitters” and expected things to flow much smoother tomorrow.
Extra testing facilities would be popping up all over the country, and there were also plans for “surge testing”, Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said.
“The more tests we can do, particularly people who are showing any symptoms at all, the quicker we will be able to get on top of this.”
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