New Zealand nears millionth COVID-19 test

It's likely that on Sunday New Zealand will hit a major milestone in our fight against the virus - our one-millionth test.

Over the past nine months, scientists have achieved what they say is a testing phenomenon.

On February 7, 2020, LabPLUS scientific officer Radhika Nagappan carried out New Zealand's very first COVID-19 test.

"This was very new testing and we were not geared up for it," she says.

She says she was proud to do something good for the community.

But it came as a shock when three weeks later, on February 28, she got the first positive result.

As cases spread around the world, getting an accurate test was crucial.

"If you'd told me this year or two ago I would have said it's not possible that we would have a test in such a short period of time and then scale it up to a million, I just wouldn't have believed it," says ESR clinical virologist Dr Ras Smit.

What would normally take months was accomplished in a few weeks. Since then testing has come a long way, peaking at 26,000 tests in one day.

And it's been a countrywide team effort with people working around the clock.

"So to reach a million is a real credit to the scientists," Auckland DHB LabPLUS clinical head Dr Sally Roberts. "The scientists have really risen to the occasion and done a fantastic job."

It's been crucial to eliminating the virus, and it's just as crucial it continues to keep it out.