Doctor urges drive-thru coronavirus testing hubs

A Wellington doctor is begging the Government to set up coronavirus testing hubs before there is a community outbreak.

So far four people have been confirmed with the disease in New Zealand, but there has been no recorded transmission between people in the community. 

Joel Howe started a petition on calling for "drive-through community-based COVID-19 assessment centres" to ease the burden on GPs as we head into the colder months.

"The outbreak overseas is so fast-moving, it's really important we make some changes now, and adjustments, before the flu season starts.," Dr Howe told Newshub.

"It will go a long way to protecting everyone and save lives." 

There are fears if COVID-19 does spread through the community medical resources and facilities will struggle to cope, on top of the usual flu season. Dr Howe also fears GPs don't have the equipment or expertise to avoid getting themselves or patients and staff infected. 

"A technician or a healthcare assistant who does this everyday in a hazmat suit and knows all the protocol, minimises the risk of spread of the disease and reduces false negative results, which may provide false reassurances," he wrote in the petition. 

"It conserves our precious [personal protective equipment] resources and reduces the need for time-consuming disinfection, as patients drive through in their own isolation room. It allows economies of scale and will divert people away from [emergency departments]."

Newshub has been told some GPs believe some advice from the Ministry of Health regarding dealing with COVID-19 patients is unrealistic. 

But Health Minister David Clark says it's not yet time to enact such drastic measures. 

"We're not at that stage yet," he told Newshub Nation on Saturday morning.

"We are having conversations of course with the Royal College of GPs. I'm aware that the Director-General of Health is in regular contact. All of our GPs and primary care facilities have been issued with personal protective equipment. That's been very well orchestrated around the country."

Some GPs however have told Newshub they've had to pay for their own personal protective equipment. Dr Clark said who pays for it is a "secondary matter", as long as they get it.

More than 101,000 people worldwide have now been confirmed infected.