Unprecedented demand for a Covid-19 test across Northland yesterday saw the region record one of its highest testing totals since testing began.
As at mid-afternoon yesterday, it was speculated a couple of hundred people had been tested across the various Northland testing centres.
The demand comes as four new Covid-19 cases, all from one family from south Auckland, were confirmed on Tuesday evening - sending Auckland into alert level 3 restrictions and the rest of the country into alert level 2.
In Whangārei, a testing centre was first set up on Rewa Rewa Rd which soon saw traffic at a standstill as far south as Portland by late morning. Reports of traffic congestion were also noted in Kaitaia near the hospital's testing centre.
The impact on traffic was so substantial, the testing centre was moved to Pohe Island by 2pm.
Whangārei's Kelly Vollenhoven turned up to the Rewa Rewa Rd centre with her two children, Alexa and Hayden, at about 10am to be tested. However, the family - who were all presenting symptoms - had still not been tested at 2.30pm.
Waiting with very patient children, Vollenhoven said she thought it was important to get tested if you were sick.
"It's the sensible thing to do for yourself, your whānau, your colleagues and your classmates."
Lee Fisher, 59, was also waiting at the Pohe Island centre for a test. She was not symptomatic but had been to Auckland recently and her work had asked her to be tested.
"I'm dealing with customers all the time so for their safety, I think it would be a good idea [to get tested], as well as my co-workers."
While she was fairly understanding of the return to alert level 2, Fisher warned people to take it seriously.
"Just don't let it get any worse than what it is, people [need to] be aware because we can't afford to have another lockdown."
Timaru's Debra and Jordan, who had been travelling Northland with their two kids and were symptomatic, said the medical staff at the testing station had been excellent in spite of the demand.
"Everybody has been awesome, everybody actually here at the moment is doing their best," Debra said.
Northland District Health Board medical officer of health Dr Catherine Jackson said there would be somewhere to be tested every day in Northland for the next week, including the weekend.
Jackson encouraged people to check the NDHB website www.northlanddhb.org.nz/home/covid-19/ for updated times and testing venues.
Testings stations are available at:
• Whangārei: Pohe Island (Portacom). Time: Mon-Sun, 9am-4pm. (A second testing venue in Whangārei was being set up).
• Dargaville: Awakino Rd (Portacom at the rear of Outpatients). Time: Mon-Fri, 9am-4pm. Sat-Sun, 10am-2pm.
• Kaitaia: 29 Redan Rd (whare at front of the hospital). Time: Mon-Fri, 9am-4pm. Sat-Sun, 10am-2pm.
• Kerikeri: Turner Centre, Cobham Rd (Portacom). Time: Mon-Fri, 9am-4pm. Sat-Sun, 10am-2pm.
• Kawakawa: Raynor St (Ngāti Hine Health Trust). Time: Mon-Sun, 10am-2pm.
• Kaikohe: 158 Broadway - Old Kaikohe RSA (Te Rūnanga Ā Iwi Ngāpuhi). Time: Mon-Sun, 10am-2pm (Mon-Fri, 2pm-5pm: 113 Broadway, Whanau Ora Community Clinic)
• Hokianga: Tests will be provided at Rawene Hospital and at GP clinics in Omapere, Panguru, Pawarenga, Rawene, Taheke, Broadwood, Horeke, Waimamaku, Mangamuka and Kohukohu. For times, refer for the Northland District Health Board website: www.northlanddhb.org.nz/home/covid-19/.
Testing will also be provided by nine Māori health providers in Te Kao, Kaitaia, Kaeo, Hokianga, Moerewa, Kaikohe, Whangārei and Dargaville. Contact details are available on the NDHB website.
Jackson encouraged people with symptoms to seek a test at a nearby testing centre to relieve the workload of GP clinics and hospitals - where tests are also provided.
Jackson said if someone had symptoms and was tested, they would have to stay home from work until they received a negative result. If someone was asymptomatic, they could return to work prior to receiving their test result.
While she empathised with the stress felt in the community, Jackson hoped people would stay calm and patient when dealing with medical staff who were putting their own lives on the line to keep Northlanders safe.
With Auckland in lockdown, police set up nine road checkpoints on the boundary exit points out of Auckland at midday yesterday — five of which are on the northern boundary.
The five northern police checkpoints are:
• SH1 North of Twin Coast Discovery Highway
• Twin Coast Highway/North of Coal Hill Rd
• Black Swamp Rd
• Twin Coast Highway/Ryan Rd
• Twin Coast Highway/Cames Rd
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster said people were allowed to pass through Auckland in order to return to their normal place of residence.
In a media briefing yesterday afternoon, director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield confirmed there were four more probable Covid-19 cases in NZ - all linked to the community based cases revealed on Tuesday - as well as one additional case in managed isolation.
Referencing his power under the Health Act, Bloomfield directed any employees of Americold in Mt Wellington, and the Dominion Rd branch of Finance Now in Auckland - workplaces associated with Tuesday's cases - to stay at home until they were contacted by a health official.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said anyone travelling out of Auckland by air must now wear a face mask.
While not a requirement, she strongly urged Aucklanders to wear one when in public.
She also outlined how it was mandatory for businesses or services to display a QR code for the Covid tracer app prominently at all entrance points. Businesses have a week to comply.