Coronavirus: Kiwi researchers working on rapid test that could diagnose COVID-19 on the spot

Kiwi researchers are working on a rapid test that could diagnose COVID-19 on the spot.

Work is underway at a laboratory in Gisborne to create the test which would provide results within about 15 minutes.

"The sample can be taken and not sent away but tested right there," said dnature diagnostics and research technician director John Mackay.

It's a simple swab test they're developing and it won't need lab equipment. It can also tell the difference between COVID-19 and the flu.

"They have peace of mind to know their result immediately because as we come into winter they're going to be thinking 'I've got a sore throat' or 'I've got a runny nose, I've got COVID, I've got COVID-19'," Mackay said.

He says fast and widespread community testing would help prevent any future surges of the virus and faster results means faster contact tracing. The World Health Organisation has said testing in the fight against COVID-19 is crucial.

A record number of tests were carried out in New Zealand on Tuesday - well over 5000 with an overall total of 95,000.

But results can take between one and two days and need to be run at a specialised laboratory. That delay means self-isolation, quarantine, and worry.

There are currently more than 2400 Kiwis in isolation or quarantine after returning from overseas.

"New Zealanders who are returning home will continue to be quarantined or isolated in Government facilities at alert level three," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters on Wednesday. "That will continue on - we have given no endpoint to that part of our response."

Mackay hopes his rapid test could be used in airports to speed up the process.

"If we can develop something within 15 minutes then it's going to be a case of look, 'thank you, here's the sample taken, sit over there while your test runs'," he said.