Coronavirus: Random testing underway in Auckland

Last-minute random COVID-19 testing of asymptomatic New Zealanders continues to ramp up.

Two sentinel community testing centres were set up in Auckland on Saturday - in Mangere and Henderson.

It follows a testing centre being set up in a Christchurch supermarket car park on Friday. Anyone who wanted a swab could get one.

On Thursday, Queenstown supermarket shoppers also participated in random COVID-19 testing.

In the Waikato, 308 people have been tested across in multiple areas. All tests from Christchurch, Queenstown, and the Waikato processed to date have returned negative results, the Ministry of Health confirmed on Saturday afternoon.

"It is important to identify any unconfirmed positive cases in our communities and to have as much information as possible on potential community transmission," said Waitemata District Health Board chief executive Dr Dale Bramley.

Three-hundred people took the opportunity to get tested - 150 in each location, he said.

"The data gathered at the two locations across Auckland today [Saturday] will feed into the national data pool and further enrich our understanding of community prevalence."

Dr Bramley said swabs will now be tested with results to be communicated within 48 hours.

Questions raised

A professor of infectious diseases has said in epidemiological terms, the random tesing approach is known as "quick and dirty".

"I don't think I would describe this as community surveillance. I think it's what we would call a quick and dirty process from an epidemiological point of view that might give some help to the decision making next week," said Professor Philip Hill from Otago University's Global Health Institute.

Earlier this week, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said sentinel testing in Queenstown would "inform our understanding and build the picture of whether there is any community transmission".

"It [Queenstown] was one of the areas of concern.

"We are also looking actively at two or three other places around the country where this will happen," he told reporters.