Coronavirus: Ministry of Health slips below 'gold standard' for COVID test result turnaround

The Government has slipped below its "gold standard" benchmark of turning around COVID-19 test results - and no one's alerted the minister who set this target.

Eighty percent of results from nasal tests are supposed to come back within 24 hours to stay on top of the current outbreak.

Before Dr Ayesha Verrall became the current associate Minister of Health, she set this standard for the turnaround time. She believes this gold standard, albeit outdated, is still being maintained.

"It has not been less than 80 percent for some time," she says.

When asked if she was sure about that, she said that's what she'd been advised. But it seems Dr Verrall was advised wrong.

This outbreak, the number of tests returned within 24 hours is 78 percent. Over the past week it dropped to 73 percent, meaning of the 152,763 tests taken last week, 41,246 came back late.

"Some of the recommendations of my report around the timeliness of certain measures wouldn't be suitable for Delta," Dr Verrall says.

So there should actually be more tests that are done faster. 

One Raglan resident Newshub spoke to, who has asked to remain anonymous, who got tested on October 1 is still waiting for his results nearly two weeks later.

"Pretty much speechless really, yeah, pretty gutted," he says.

He no longer has confidence in the system.

"Not really, not when we're trying to stamp it out. I just look at the situation we're in right now and is that because of these hiccups?"

Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McElnay couldn't answer the longest time it's taken to return a positive test result to a case.

"I would have to go and get that information, I haven't got that information."

Earlier this week, Newshub spoke to Mark Longley, a Newshub manager, who waited five days for his positive COVID test result.

"I thought I was going mad. I just really wanted to know what was wrong with me," he said.

The Government has been refusing for three days to tell Newshub how many COVID cases - like Longley - waited longer than 24 hours to find out they were sick.

Both McElnay and Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson were unable to answer how many positive cases are waiting more than 24 hours for their test results - and were unimpressed at being asked.

"Tova, I am going to interrupt you now because you've asked that question," Robertson said.

And it still remains unanswered.