Coronavirus: 605 Kiwis made to wait more than 24 hours to find out they'd tested positive for COVID-19

Newshub can reveal more than 600 people who tested positive for COVID-19 waited longer than 24 hours before learning they had the virus, and in some cases it took more than 72 hours.

And there's concern those delays risk spreading the virus further.

Medical teams toil away in the rain, the demand for testing constant. Many get the results swiftly - but then there's the other end of the spectrum. 

"I've had a niece that took maybe five days to get their results back," said Auckland resident Ruth Brown.

"I waited just over three days for my last test to come back. It was an absolute bloody nightmare," fellow local Rachel Tyson said.

Hundreds of positive cases get notified late. As at October 17, 605 positive community cases took longer than 24 hours to be notified.

One-hundred of these took longer than two days, and 16 positives took longer than three days before the result was known. 

At that point, the delayed positive results accounted for 34 percent of all positive results that were notified.

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says he's not satisfied with those test turnaround times.

"IIt is something that we continue to look closely at," he said.

National's COVID-19 response spokesperson Chris Bishop, who obtained the data, says the numbers present a concerning picture.

"It's not good enough that 18 months into this pandemic we are still having repeated issues with testing result times," he told Newshub.

"The faster you can identify someone as COVID-positive, the quicker you can get them into isolation, the quicker you can start that contact-tracing."

Professor Des Gorman, a Professor of Medicine at Auckland University, says the delay poses a risk.

"We should have 100 percent returned within 24 hours," he said - especially as some who get tests then go to the supermarket or pharmacy.

"It's unacceptable for several reasons. First of all, for the person infected that's too long to have to wait. Presumably they're isolating and doing the right things, but a lot of people won't."

Problems with testing have been outlined in a report co-authored by Professor David Murdoch.

The report says a consistent message from laboratory workers around the country is the "lack of information" from the Ministry of Health about the future of the response and the "enormous pressure" on staff who worry about how they would cope with lockdowns which restrict testing volumes.

Lab workers say without a future plan, they feel like they're chasing their tails.

"We're a profession at the moment under siege a bit. Basically we've been working flat-out for 20 months with the pandemic," said Terry Taylor, president of the NZ Institute of Medical Laboratory Science.

And there's concern that lab experts aren't formally involved in Ministry of Health decision-making. 

"We just need the infrastructure sorted out at the top and I'm sure we'll be on the right path," Taylor said.

And he says swift results are not always possible - especially in smaller centres - where tests need to be couriered elsewhere.