COVID-19 testing backlog keeping travellers in quarantine

Newshub can reveal 21 people have been stopped from leaving isolation after finishing their 14 days, due to a backlog in the testing system.

The Health Ministry has told Newshub the people were unable to leave as their results are yet to come back. A spokesperson said this was due to labs processing 6273 tests on Thursday.

A surgeon in quarantine in Auckland, who wished to remain anonymous, now fears he could be one of them.

After returning to the country from New York, he says he had to put pressure on the Health Ministry to get tested.

Friday marks day 13 in quarantine for the surgeon, who's staying at the Sudima Hotel.

However, he was only tested for the first time on Thursday, four days after ringing the Ministry of Health demanding one.

Due to the delays, he says he's not sure if he'll be able to check out on Saturday as planned.

"Because of the backlog, because of everything that has happened, people are still uncertain as to whether they will receive their results. It's a frustrating situation."

But he says staff at the facility have been doing a great job in extremely difficult circumstances.

"I feel for the staff here because they want to test, they want to get things out there, they want to give a clear directive - to people that are staying here," he told Newshub.

The surgeon puts it all down to poor communication by the Ministry to Health teams on the ground.

Although the Director-General Dr Ashley Bloomfield says that's not the case.

"I don't think staff at quarantine sites are confused, nor anyone in quarantine, nor would I say is any New Zealander," Bloomfield said.

The surgeon disagrees.

"The current situation is confusing for staff, it's confusing for people here and it's caused a lot of distress and I just wish there had been a better line of communication."

After a myriad of quarantine blunders, the Health Minister David Clark has been sidelined, and Housing Minister Megan Woods has been brought in to try and fix the quarantine issues.

"I think New Zealanders can have confidence in the swiftness in which we've moved," Woods said. "We already have increased resources."

Her wingman is Air Commodore Darryn Webb, who for the last month, has been responsible for some parts of quarantine management.

He says he had nothing to do with the two COVID- positive women who left the Novotel without a test - but admits failings under his watch.

"I think it's fair to say some of the systems in place haven't worked as well as we'd hoped," Commodore Webb said.

Asked if mistakes had occurred on his watch, he responded: "Yeah, and one of my roles now is to make sure we really bolster those processes and procedures."

And while the processes have been unclear, the key rule is clear now: no negative test, no release.

Dr Bloomfield says if people in quarantine or managed isolation refuse a test, "they can be held for up to 28 days".

Megan Woods also says there will be doubling defence force personnel at quarantine sites.

She also wants daily reports of the number of people going into facilities, the numbers going out, and numbers of those that had been tested.

On Friday, the Director-General of Health was still unable to say how many people have left managed isolation without having a test, despite rules stipulating they must come into effect on June 9.

There's also been an immediate suspension to private functions being held at isolation facilities.

This follows revelations on Newshub on Thursday that a wedding party was allowed to have a knees-up in a room used on a daily basis for exercise by people in isolation.