New Zealand's testing regime is under "significant and unexpected" pressure as daily tests reach a record high number while the number of community testing sites has halved.
General practices say the rush on demand for tests is due to heightened anxiety about Covid-19 since two sisters left isolation despite later testing positive.
In Auckland, public buses had to be diverted due to the huge queues of traffic around Covid-19 testing stations on Tuesday and one man said it took more than a day to find somewhere with capacity to test him.
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There are currently 37 community based assessment centres (CBACs) compared to 62 on April 4 during lockdown, according to the Ministry of Health.
The number of designated practices, swabbing centres and mobile stations has increased from 47 to 80.
Director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said most of the CBACs were stood up during lockdown when practices were doing most of their consultations via video conference.
Since the return to alert level 1, people needing tests should be able to get one at a clinic.
New Zealand College of General Practitioners medical director Dr Bryan Betty believed the rush on demand for tests was because of an "absolute heightened anxiety" about Covid-19 since news broke about the border issues.
As well, there had been an influx of patients needing tests due to the start of cold and the flu season and GPs were catching up on a backlog of work, Betty said.
The Government has also significantly ramped up its testing regime at the border and is tracking down and testing potential contacts of the two sisters connected to the border blunder.
On Tuesday, laboratories completed 9,174 tests – the highest ever day of testing - and more than 358,000 have been done to date.
"The system has become very stressed, there's no doubt about it … and that's causing resourcing issues" said Betty.
He'd been contacted by a patient in Auckland who couldn't find a centre to test him for more than a day.
And Act leader David Seymour said someone waited four hours to get tested at the St Lukes CBAC in Auckland.
Betty said it wasn't clear yet whether the surge in demand for tests was a blip or if it would be sustained.
But said it was pertinent testing numbers remained high in case there was community transmission of Covid-19 and the Government should know there was a resourcing issue which needed to be dealt with.
Bloomfield said the ministry had a teleconference on Tuesday with all the DHBs to ensure they were providing ready access to testing, maintaining capacity and scale up testing sites quickly if needed.
The testing regime ramp-up means DHBs must now ensure they have rigorous testing across all demographics and locations which will be reviewed weekly.
If "significant variation" to national or regional average rates were found, the health board would be required to take specific actions.
Director of strategy at Capital & Coast District Health Board, Rachel Haggerty, said since the onset of cold and flu season they'd seen a "significant and unexpected" increase in demand.
On Wednesday up to 1000 people were swabbed and no one was being turned away if they met the case definition for Covid-19, she said.
The health board was looking at options to increase capacity and were considering reopening CBACs in Karori and Lower Hutt which were closed when New Zealand dropped down alert levels.
Other health boards contacted by the Herald also reported a significant upswing in demand and could reopen CBACs if needed.
MidCentral DHB chief executive Kathryn Cook said it provided testing at five locations which were a mixture of practices and a standalone designated centre in Palmerston North. This plan would remain in place until at least June 30.
"We are awaiting updated testing advice before confirming the testing plan for the upcoming months but we remain cognisant of the need to be nimble in our response for any future developments relating to Covid-19 cases and we are constantly reviewing the situation to monitor demand and ensure we have sufficient capacity for testing."