Northland residents face 8-hour wait-times for COVID-19 tests as medical teams become overwhelmed

Seventeen additional testing centres have been opened in Northland after the new COVID-19 community case.

But there have been wait times for as much as eight hours for people trying to get tested, with those waiting frustrated some sites closed mid-afternoon.

Police had to step in at one site due to traffic safety concerns to ask people who were not symptomatic to consider coming back on Tuesday.

In the suburb of Kamo on the outskirts of the city, police were on the scene to assist at a testing site.

Not because of disorder - but because roads got so blocked, it was causing safety concerns.

Dennis Brownie and his wife Leanne had been at three of the places the infected woman visited and have symptoms.

But after waiting hours, they learned the testing centre would soon close for the day, and they could miss out.

"This sort of thing could have been anticipated and the powers that be could have put on more facilities for us to be tested," Dennis says.

"Having a whole year now of experience with this virus should have prepared us far better than this," Leanne adds.

Queues of people had been waiting in their cars stretching kilometres down the road in both directions but congestion is what is concerning police.

So they're asking people who don't have symptoms or have not visited the areas that the infected woman travelled to go home and come back another day.

At another site, in a carpark in the heat, medical teams were also overwhelmed. One person waiting to get tested had been there for six hours.

"I think that they could have been more organised. I think there should have been more people on the ground," another said.

At one centre, around 200 people were still waiting to get tested at 6pm - a wait of around eight hours. Medical teams say they will continue to work throughout the night until everyone in the carpark has had a test.

But the venue has been shut off, so it's not allowing anyone else to come in through the gates.

"We're going to need more resources in Northland to help the DHB create a testing scenario that makes it easier for people to be well-tested," National's health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti told Newshub.

Health authorities indicated that may be necessary. In the meantime, they had a message to those waiting.

"There are a lot of people turning up in Northland who are neither symptomatic nor were at the places. Can I ask those people to stand back," Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said.

The frustration over testing wait times comes amid reports testing rates slumped over the holidays - and New Zealanders need to wake up.

"There has been a sense of complacency in terms of COVID and what's happening. I think we need to move on from that and testing rates definitely need to go up at this point," says Dr Bryan Betty, medical director of The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners.

People in Northland today were only too willing to get tested. But the resources just weren't there.