COVID-19: All 12,000 Auckland, Tauranga port workers unlikely to be tested by Ministry of Health's deadline

The Ministry of Health has set a deadline of midnight on Monday for around 12,000 port workers in Auckland and Tauranga to be tested for COVID-19.

But there's confusion surrounding that plan, and it's unlikely even half of the people needed will be tested. 

Every person who's set foot on Auckland's port site in the past 26 days is required to get a test, and registered nurse Nele says it's been very busy trying to test the 6000 workers by Monday night.

"We are doing our best for that. We are hoping for that," she says.

At Tauranga's port, the only sign of a testing clinic was a sign that said it wasn't happening. Health Minister Chris Hipkins thought testing had already begun there.

"There is testing available, there is a mobile testing site there," he said on Sunday, before he was interrupted by Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield who reminded him it was going in on Monday.

By law, all of Tauranga's 6000 port workers need testing, plus the 6000 in Auckland. That's a legal order to test 12000 workers in less than 70 hours. 

Truck drivers Newshub spoke to say they don't feel as though they need to be tested.

"We think it's injecting panic into a situation where the risk of truck drivers, in fact all those dealing with freight movement, is yet to be defined," Road Transport CEO Nick Leggett says.

Auckland workers are being told they can get a test at the port - which is one of several tents specially set up in the city - or at any other test site in the city. It's up to the individual to say they work at the port.

"We don't know who is tested, that information is held by the Ministry," Ports of Auckland spokesperson and general manager of communications Matt Ball says.

The Ministry of Health said back in June testing of port staff was underway, however that never happened. But eight nurses will be on hand on Monday at the Port of Tauranga's testing station. 

"There are no reported cases that have come through the Port of Tauranga and therefore the approach we are taking is appropriate, but there is some frustration amongst people," Bay of Plenty DHB incident controller Jo Bourne says.

But Bourne believes the high volume of port testing won't be completed by the deadline.

"We've spoken to the Ministry at length about that and it's not possible to get all those tests done in that time."

Despite the midnight deadline, workers won't be penalised if they can't be tested by that time.