COVID-19 testing chaos: Aucklanders turned away from central city clinic

Aucklanders desperate to get tested for COVID-19 following the confirmation of a fifth case in the community were turned away from one central clinic on Thursday morning.

Those who arrived at the Eden Terrace testing centre on New North Road mere minutes after its 8am opening time were turned away, according to reports, as the inundated clinic struggled with the extensive queues. 

More than 80 vehicles lined up in both directions outside the centre, locals say, while nearby construction work only added to the queues as trucks manoeuvred their way on-site.

All walk-ins were refused by 8:30am, NZME reports. It's believed only 40 or so people waiting outside the clinic were offered tests due to the overwhelming numbers.

One woman claimed people had waited up to seven hours for a test at the Northcote centre in Auckland's North Shore on Wednesday.

Some of Auckland's testing centres.
Some of Auckland's testing centres. Photo credit: Vinay Ranchhod / RNZ

In a post to a community group on Facebook, one local said the traffic outside the Northcote clinic appeared to be "a lot better" on Thursday.

"They seem to have a better system. Akoranga direction is clear, cars only queueing from Exmouth and Raleigh," she wrote.

Another warned motorists to avoid Hillcrest's Sunnybrae Road due to congestion outside a pop-up testing centre at the Eventfinda Stadium Carpark in Wairau Valley.

Speaking to NZME on Thursday morning, Manurewa-Papakura ward councillor Daniel Newman called the heavy congestion "a damn disgrace".

"South Auckland is the worst place to have community transmission of COVID-19, and what we saw at Wiri yesterday and at other community testing stations around Auckland was a damn disgrace," he said. 

In a statement on Thursday morning, Auckland Transport (AT) warned of traffic congestion around some of Auckland's 15 testing sites and asked motorists who weren't planning on getting tested to avoid the respective areas.

"Some bus services have had to be diverted because of congestion particularly around the testing site in New North Rd and at Botany," said the statement, reminding Aucklanders that travel should be kept to a minimum under the current alert level 3 restrictions.

People lining up in their cars to get tested at the Eden Terrace clinic.
People lining up in their cars to get tested at the Eden Terrace clinic. Photo credit: RNZ

With Aucklanders determined not to lose their place in line, some are resorting to extreme measures, with reports of people urinating near the centres due to a lack of available bathroom facilities. 

A man who reportedly waited nearly 12 hours for a test at the Eden Terrace community centre on Wednesday claimed a number of people were forced to urinate in public, while others battled to jump the queue. 

"It was just an absolute sh*t show. There was no traffic management so people were just pushing in. It was just chaos," the man's partner told NZME.

According to Auckland's DHB, a total of 3546 people were swabbed at community testing centres in the city alone on Wednesday.

The anecdotes of testing clinic chaos follow a boost in staff at Auckland's four permanent testing centres, as well as an extension to their opening hours.

Official guidelines advise New Zealanders to get tested for the virus if they are presenting flu-like symptoms, or at the request of the Ministry of Health, a GP or Healthline. 

"If you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, such as cold or flu symptoms, contact Healthline (0800 358 5453) or your doctor to find out if you need a test," says the Ministry of Health's official website.

"If you have symptoms, you can get a test at most GPs - call ahead to find out if you need a test and follow their advice [or] get a test at a Community Testing Centre."

The Auckland District Health Board similarly advises anyone who is symptomatic to contact their local GP or Healthline to find out whether or not a test is required.

When asked whether the Ministry of Health will further boost the capacity of testing clinics or has plans to manage queues more effectively, a spokesperson directed Newshub to Thursday's 1pm media briefing.

Speaking at the conference, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern reiterated that "it's not the test that's taking time".

"It's getting your details. Having your NHI number can speed things up considerably. If you don't have it, you might want to consider using your GP as an option, because they will have it on hand," she advised.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said those who are considering a test but are "well and in good health" should "stay put" so people who are symptomatic can be prioritised.

Eleven pop-up testing centres are open in Auckland as of Thursday, in addition to permanent sites in Northcote, Eden Terrace, Henderson and Wiri:

  • Coast to Coast Wellsford Medical Centre
  • Coast to Coast Walkworth
  • Eventfinda Stadium Carpark (Wairau Valley)
  • White Cross St Lukes Accident & Urgent Medical
  • Health New Lynn
  • Henderson Specialty Centre
  • Botany Road CTC
  • Local Doctors Airport Oaks
  • Otara Town Centre CTC
  • Takanini Urgent Care
  • Waiheke Medical Centre.

People can also be tested for free at general practices and urgent care clinics. All tests are free.

For urgent care clinics, visit the ADHB website.