COVID-19: Avondale College student 'turned back' after three-hour wait to be tested, as Aucklanders brace for another long day of queues

A student at Avondale College waited "almost three hours" in a gruelling queue for a test on Wednesday, only to be "turned back" when the centre shut up shop - despite the school being one of the major locations of interest connected to Auckland's outbreak.

It comes as New Zealand enters day two of lockdown, with nine cases identified in the outbreak so far - all of which are in Auckland. A tenth case, an Air New Zealand crew member in her 60s, has also tested positive with a link to the border - however, she is not connected to the current cluster.

Around 70 locations of interest have been identified across Auckland and the Coromandel so far, spanning bars, restaurants, shops, malls, a church, SkyCity casino, the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and one high school, Avondale College. 

The student, who The AM Show spoke to outside the community-based assessment centre in Balmoral on Thursday morning, had dutifully returned to the clinic with his mum after almost three hours of queuing the day before - all to no avail.

"We were in this queue yesterday - we were waiting for almost three hours, but then the testing station closed at 6:30pm, and we were turned back," his mum explained. 

"So this morning, we decided we'd come early."

On Wednesday, it was revealed that the college - with a roll of almost 2800 students - was a location of interest after a 25-year-old teacher tested positive for COVID-19. All staff and students at the school are considered close contacts and are required to isolate for 14 days.

The teen admitted the experience has shaken him, but feels certain he won't be one to test positive.

"It's kind of scary. None of us want it, but at the same time, I haven't been in contact with any teachers, so I think it's alright for now," he said, adding he is "kind of" scared to get the nasal swab.

"It's my first time [to get tested], I haven't done it before. So I'm going to experience it now." 

He advises his fellow Aucklanders to beat the queues by lining up early in the morning.

"If you do want to get a test, come early in the morning, because the queues are really big… come earlier than 8am," he suggested.

The Avondale College student, who is considered a close contact as well as other staff and students, waited for three hours with his mum on Wednesday, only to be turned away at closing.
The Avondale College student, who is considered a close contact as well as other staff and students, waited for three hours with his mum on Wednesday, only to be turned away at closing. Photo credit: The AM Show

Another young person The AM Show spoke to, Leo, had decided to seek a test after realising he had been in the same Auckland University of Technology (AUT) building as a COVID-positive student

On Wednesday, it was revealed that a student at the university, who attended a lecture with 84 other people the day before, had tested positive for the virus. AUT confirmed to Newshub that Vice-Chancellor Derek McCormack had informed staff in an email that the student was at a social institutions (SOSC 583) lecture in WG403 at the City Campus between 11:30am and 1pm on Tuesday, and was infectious at the time.

"I was at the AUT building at the same time as that guy yesterday," he told The AM Show from outside the Balmoral testing station.

"I wasn't in the [same] lecture, but I was in the building. [I] thought it's better to be safe than sorry."

When asked how he felt about the outbreak reaching the university campus, which is located in Auckland's CBD, Leo said he had been expecting it.

"It's alright, it was going to happen at some stage."

He also said he had arrived at the clinic early to avoid waiting in a static queue.

"We came early because we didn't want to be sitting in the queue for hours."

Another car along, Ava and her mum had parked up outside the centre for the third time in 24 hours.

Ava, a young girl who has been "feeling sick lately", was feeling too unwell on Wednesday to persevere with the line - despite having waited for three hours already. 

Her mum, a nurse on the frontline, is hoping they can get tested before she heads back to work.

"Yesterday we came, but it was a long queue. We had to wait for three hours, but she was not feeling well, so we went home," she explained.

"We came back in the evening but when we came back, they'd closed, because too many people - they said they're not accepting [anyone else]. So we came back this morning… we're just waiting to get tested so I can go back to work.

"This time we're prepared, we've got water, we've got some biscuits, warm clothes."

She urged the community to "follow the rules".

"Follow the rules, be careful. Delta is very dangerous. If everyone follows the rules, the community can be safe."

"Stay safe, stay at home, wash your hands," Ava added.

Aucklanders were up bright and early on Thursday in a bid to beat the queues.
Aucklanders were up bright and early on Thursday in a bid to beat the queues. Photo credit: The AM Show

The queues on Wednesday caused chaos for commuters in Northcote, with the long line of cars snaking around the surrounding streets disrupting one of the suburb's main bus services, the 924.

One Auckland City Hospital nurse told the New Zealand Herald she left the Northcote testing centre after eight hours in line.

Meanwhile, others elsewhere in Auckland also reported five-hour queues, many turned away without even receiving a test due to closing.

Shortly after 9am on Wednesday, more than 140 cars were backed up 600m down Seabreeze Rd in Devonport, the suburb where the original case, a man in his 50s, resides.

By 4pm, about 3500 people had been tested across Auckland's clinics.

The Ministry of Health has acknowledged that queues for testing can become brutally long, particularly in the early days of an outbreak, and has urged Kiwis to prepare with food and water

"We know that on the first day of testing it can take time for systems to be stood up and queues can be long. Please prepare to be in a queue for some time - wear a mask, take food and water with you, take a book to read or something to watch and please be patient and kind. Everyone is doing their best at testing stations, but the first day always tends to be busy," a spokesperson for the ministry said.