If Sangita Singh worked 9 to 5, her wait at one of Auckland's drive-thru Covid-19 testing centres yesterday would have been as long as a workday.
The Auckland City Hospital nurse, who works on the same ward as the hospital staff member who tested positive as part of a new outbreak this week, finally left North Shore's Northcote testing centre after eight hours in line.
She was one of about 3500 people who were tested at testing stations in Auckland yesterday by 4pm.
Others queuing for tests in Auckland after a Devonport man was found to be New Zealand's first community case of Covid-19 infection since February also endured waits of up to five hours or were turned away before evening cut-off times.
The mum of an Avondale College pupil told by the school her son is a close contact said she had waited two hours in a testing centre queue only to be told as they neared the front that the centre was closing.
"The staff were extremely rude and didn't care if we were close contacts. We now have to wait 'til [Thursday]."
A Northern Region Health Coordination Centre spokeswoman said the first day of testing could take time for systems to be stood up and queues could be long. In some cases, people were given the option of diverting to other stations.
In Christchurch, a drive-in testing centre near the airport stretched 1.8km by late yesterday morning, while Waikato District Health Board told Hamilton residents an extra testing site was being set up at Claudelands Event Centre on Brooklyn Rd from noon, as traffic was already heavy at their Founders site.
Not being able to go to the bathroom was the worst part, Singh, 40, said.
"My poor kidneys, they suffered. But I can't complain, we have to do what we have to do."
She'd been told she could return to work tomorrow if she was asymptomatic and her test result was negative.
Tests of hospital staffers were being prioritised and results could be available in the morning, Singh said.
Some lined up before testing stations opened and by just after 9am more than 140 cars were backed up 600m down Seabreeze Rd, Devonport, and in the adjacent Woodall Park car park where testing was occurring.
Graham and Lindy Macdonald were there after suffering cold-like symptoms.
"I heard it was on the North Shore and I thought 'the North Shore's a big place' and then [I said] 'oh god, it's in Devonport'," Graham said.
By noon, testing staff were handing out cookies and water to those waiting, and a manager later encouraged those waiting to be tested - which took about six minutes per person - to be patient.
"We know how difficult it can be, but we're doing the best we can."
Essential worker Sharon joined the Devonport queue after being - along with those in 40 other cars - turned away from the Northcote testing centre, in College Rd, on Tuesday night because of high demand.
Those in about 30 cars were turned away about 5.30pm last night as staff cut off the site before its scheduled 8pm closure.
A Herald reporter on site said people were still arriving at the centre after 6pm, thinking it was open until 8pm.
Lauren Billett, who had been feeling sick, had been waiting about two hours when she was turned away.
"It's a bit ridiculous."
Lines at the centre trailed almost 1km yesterday morning, forcing some buses to mount the kerb to get past.
Some people said they had been waiting three hours to get tested - although some arrived before the centre opened.
At the Balmoral testing centre in Mt Eden, Newstalk ZB reporter Emme McKay was turned away late morning, with about 200 cars waiting and staff telling her there was a five-hour wait.
At Whitecross in neighbouring suburb St Luke's the queue stretched 500m, and there were also long waits at North Harbour Stadium in Albany where a Red Badge security worker said a technical problem had caused delays.
By afternoon demand had eased at some sites, including Albany.
Extra testing facilities would be popping up all over the country, and there were also plans for "surge testing", Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said yesterday.
"The more tests we can do, particularly people who are showing any symptoms at all, the quicker we will be able to get on top of this."