Long waits at NSW Covid testing sites as cases and close contacts increase | Australia news


People in New South Wales are facing long queues at Covid-19 test clinics ahead of the busy Christmas season.

Hundreds of thousands of people have undergone tests in the past week, while cases surged statewide with 2,213 new infections on Friday.

On Thursday, 127,583 people were tested, down slightly from 143,938 the day before. But many had to wait a long time before getting a Pap smear.

Kate Evans waited an hour and a half for a test at the Warringah Aquatic Center test clinic on Thursday morning. “Fun times,” said the 27-year-old. “I was so bored that I ended up Facetimeing some friends from abroad who saw my nose being taken.” Despite the queue, she got a negative result about 17 hours later.

Lizzie Garrett, a woman from Alexandria, looked once at the queue outside the Histopath testing clinic in Gibbons Street, Redfern, on Wednesday morning, and decided to go elsewhere. “It was blocks and blocks long,” she told Guardian Australia.

The 31-year-old, who woke up voiceless this week for a planned trip to Melbourne, instead went to a drive-through Laverty clinic in Rozelle, where she queued for about 45 minutes. “I get a lot of tests because I’m immunocompromised,” Garrett said. “I’ve seen a lot, during the peaks, during the lows, I’ve seen what the traffic is like. I’ve never seen Rozelle this bad in all that time.”

Her result came back in just over 36 hours. “It seems there are a lot of people who do what I do and go, ‘I need to make sure I don’t have Covid before I travel, before Christmas, before I see family’.”

Anecdotally, waiting times have increased dramatically in a few days. When Nurie Salim went to the Gibbons Street clinic last week, there was “zero minute wait,” she said. “And then they’d get you your result within two hours, no joke. Two o’clock.”

On Friday, she returned to find a line already “swinging around several blocks” when the clinic opened at 9 a.m. It went pretty quickly, she said. “We were only waiting for an hour.”

A man was in and out of the Sydney International Airport clinic within 10 minutes on Monday, the result being 10 hours back. But a woman who went to the same clinic on Thursday waited 45 minutes for a test and still got no result by Friday afternoon.

A spokesperson for NSW Health said it has “the capacity to extend testing hours, introduce additional drive-through sites and establish additional pop-up clinics as needed”. NSW Health worked with private providers to ensure turnaround times were “as fast as possible,” the spokesperson added.

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People have also turned to rapid antigen tests, but they are flying off the shelves faster than many places can replenish them. Pharmacies across Sydney said they had none or very little left when called by Guardian Australia. Some people had trouble finding the tests in stores, while others reported being easy to find, albeit expensive.

Salim stressed that health workers should not be blamed for long queues. “They are trying their best. It’s a tough job, people are dissatisfied,” she says. “I don’t shame the good people at the testing clinic. I wish there were more of them, in more places.”