Coronavirus: Symptomatic Kiwis denied COVID-19 tests despite widening of criteria

Newshub has discovered people are still being denied COVID-19 tests even with referrals from doctors or Healthline. 

A woman who lives on the remote D'Urville Island in the Marlborough Sounds says she and her family were told to get tested. They took an 11-hour round trip to a testing station to get it done only to be told on arrival "they didn't fit the criteria". 

Helen Aplin, her husband and children are all sick. They have fevers, sore throats and headaches, prompting a Healthline nurse to tell her and the family to get tested.

"She advised us that it was definitely worth doing that and she felt it was important that we did," Aplin told Newshub.

The family also had recent contact with an overseas traveller. But Aplin wanted to be sure it was necessary to travel for hours by car and boat to reach Nelson's testing station.

She says a nurse at the clinic also told her "everyone in your bubble needs to come for a test".

"She was adamant that we should go into town," she says.

The family arrived at the testing station only to be told they didn't meet the criteria.

"Pretty frustrated that we're subjecting the children to a totally wasted day, putting them at possible risk.

"The children had been sitting in the car for a good 10 to 11 hours."

Last week, the Government widened testing, with the Prime Minister saying it meant people with COVID-19 symptoms, even without travel history, could be tested. 

The Ministry of Health's Director-General said on Wednesday he doubted people were getting rejected.

"I would be very surprised if people with COVID-like symptoms are being denied a test because the protocol Healthline has been using for over a week now under the new case definition is much more inclusive," Dr Ashley Bloomfield says.

Blenheim resident Ryan McQuillan, who's also sick, and his family were also referred by Healthline and their family doctor, but they too were denied a test.

"We heard what I think everyone else heard, that if you've got COVID symptoms to call Healthline," he told Newshub.

The latest version of testing criteria in New Zealand says you qualify if you have "acute respiratory infection and other symptoms" like a cough. GPs can also use their clinical judgement.

McQuillan's two-year-old son, Frank, has respiratory issues.

"He was hospitalised back when he was five-months-old, so I'm fairly sure he's someone at risk with respiratory conditions.

"To get the runaround - it's unhelpful in an already testing time."

The call went out to test, test, test, but people who want it still can't get it.