New Zealand's COVID-19 PCR testing capacity has reached a "crisis" point, and both laboratory and Auckland public health staff are pleading to only get tested if symptomatic or a close contact.
The New Zealand Institute of Medical Laboratory Science (NZIMLS) said in a statement on Saturday that non-symptomatic testing "is totally clogging the ability of laboratories to function".
"NZIMLS is making a plea to those in governance of the pandemic health response to strongly communicate the message that non-symptomatic testing is totally clogging the ability of laboratories to function."
Northern Region Health Coordination Centre (NRHCC) echoes that plea, warning people who aren't symptomatic may be turned away from getting tested.
"We are asking everyone to follow the health advice and help us ensure the right people get access to testing. If you have no symptoms of COVID-19 and do not meet any other criteria, you do not need to be tested."
NZIMLS president Terry Taylor said there is no need for mass testing when it's known that the virus is embedded in the community.
"To run our diagnostic laboratories into the ground with endless irrelevant testing is a direct reflection of poor foresight, planning and respect for the role of this critical health workforce."
NRHCC Director of Operations Matt Hannant said due to the significant pressure, some COVID-19 test results are being returned within 48-hours but an increasing number are taking up to five days.
Taylor backs Dr Bryan Betty's calls for a change in focus and too believes a de-escalation approach to Omicron is needed.
"We need to be de-escalating this down to get into a position where most of us are just going to have a mild to moderate illness, that we're going to get through like any respiratory illness in winter, and we need to be moving on, and perhaps the way we're approaching it at the moment is causing more problems than good, and we may have reached a pivot point with that," Dr Betty said in a recent interview.
Taylor says our laboratories have reached this pivot point now and he wants to see reinforcements and a new strategy from the Government.
"This is a very difficult and, in many cases, heart-breaking situation for our dedicated and hard-working frontline medical laboratory scientists and technicians. They have fought a battle of monumental proportions for nearly two years,
"‘I feel strong emotions now, there is an underlying part of me that feels like we are almost defeated in this long battle," he added.
Taylor said he would challenge anyone who thought that laboratory tests are more impart than people.
"Waiting days for results is a reflection on an underperforming workforce, this couldn’t be further from the actual truth."