Drive-through clinics should be set up in New Zealand to check patients for the new coronavirus, a GP says.
Dr Joel Howe, from Lower Hutt, said drive-through systems would reduce the risk of spreading the infection in public places like a waiting room, while also protecting doctors and elderly patients.
"It's almost like a Starbucks or Maccas drive-through, but as triage for coronavirus," he said.
He is speaking to the Ministry of Health and the Hutt Valley District Health Board about getting four drive-through centres set up in the Wellington Region.
He has also started an online petition to promote the initiative, which has been signed by 500 people.
The drive-through system was trialled in South Korea and had been adopted in parts of England and Scotland, he said.
Howe said a lab technician or healthcare assistant wearing a Hazmat suit could do the assessments at the drive-through centre, which could be set up in a well-ventilated area like a carpark.
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The makeshift clinic would be supervised by a young GP and nurse, because they were less vulnerable if they became infected, Howe said.
"I think it's actually going to be helpful in terms of reducing a lot of the reservations that a lot of our GPs, public health officials, nurses or even patients have of having patients coming through their GP clinic, effectively unannounced.
"That causes lockdown of half the clinic, disrupts the workflow, and puts people at risk.
"With the drive-through system, every patient brings their own isolation room with them, and there is no need for disinfecting the waiting room every time."
Medical centres around New Zealand have warned they could have to close if people infect the doctors or their staff with the Covid-19 virus.
People who suspect they may have the virus are being told to get help over the phone rather than show up at doctors' practices.
An Auckland woman who tested positive for Covid-19 on Tuesday had
. The doctor at Westgate Medical Centre who treated her is now in self-isolation.
Howe said elderly patients at his centre, High Street Health Hub, had been concerned about coming in for appointments since Covid-19 cases were confirmed in New Zealand.
The mortality rate for the virus is estimated to be around 8 per cent for people aged over 70 and 15 per cent for people over 80, compared with about 2 per cent for the broader population.
"I was looking after a patient in his 70s who was coming in for an operation, and he said 'What happens if someone comes in for a swab? I am at the greatest risk'," Howe said.
"There is a lot of fear in the community. We are not trying to promote fear, but to preserve patient workflow and protect the most vulnerable people."