Spread of coronavirus conspiracy theories hindering COVID-19 testing in Northland

Conspiracy theorists spreading nonsense about COVID-19 are hindering Northland's testing response, health workers say.

Protesters turned up with placards at a busy testing site on Tuesday - an act one public health doctor says amounts to scaremongering at an already anxious time.

Their claim? The testing process is a hoax. 

The demonstrations frustrated locals and police, who tried to keep the peace by engaging with them and making sure testing continued to flow.

And it angered health workers.

"It just completely undermines all of the health workers here working hard to do the best for their communities," said Dr Mataroria Lyndon, a public health doctor at Mahitahi Hauora.

"Secondly, it's scaremongering and conspiracy theories. It's not true and it could lead to more anxiety in the community and people not doing the right thing."

There were other volunteers working today, only this group was providing a useful service: fruit and water deliveries courtesy of the local iwi. 

"A little bit of manaaki (nourishment) and support just makes it easier," said Ngatiwai volunteer Petite Nathan.

At another testing statIon at Ruakaka, cars snaked around the sand dunes. Ann Marsh, who lives at a nearby retirement village, was told to get tested due to possible contact with an associate of the infected woman.

But on Monday, the wait became too much. 

"Six-and-a-half hours in extreme heat, and just never-ending - just waiting and waiting and waiting," she said.

On Tuesday, she waited even longer. Adding to her anguish, as she got close to the end of the queue, she was told she didn't need a test. 

"I don't know what to do," she said, becoming emotional.

Further back in the queue, some Northland locals sang a waiata as they waited yet again. 

"We waited at the refinery for about four hours yesterday, and then we got turned around and told to come back tomorrow because they were going to cut off the times," Ruakaka resident Jewel Foote said.

More than 1500 tests have been completed in Northland - but the message is only turn up if you need to. 

"We are experiencing delays in testing," COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.

"I want to remind people if you are not a close contact or a casual plus contact and you're not showing symptoms, please do not line up for testing.”

One testing site was set up on Tuesday morning, after congestion on main roads caused safety issues on Monday. In response to unprecedented demand for tests, two mobile units have started operating and extra staff from Auckland have been sent up. 

The Ruakaka raceway site was a smoother operation than Monday's bedlam, but it was hardly a gallop to the finish line.

Among those wanting tests was a group who came prepared with a rugby ball - anything to ease the burden of being part of this prolonged procession to get a swab.