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Many Auckland Covid testing sites are largely empty despite plea

Despite calls from health officials for more Aucklanders to get swabbed for Covid-19, a manager of testing sites in the city says things haven't gotten busier. 

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Community testing sites manager Dr Aash Raj says people are starting to get complacent. Source: 1 NEWS

On Friday, the Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield issued a plea to Aucklaners.

“This weekend is critical that we get high testing numbers.” 

It comes ahead of the Cabinet meeting on Monday, where they will decide if Auckland is ready to move down from Alert Level 4. 

“Anyone who is symptomatic, particularly in Tāmaki Makaurau, please do go get a test,” Bloomfield said. 

But when 1News visited multiple testing sites today, there wasn’t evidence of increased testing. 

The normally very busy St Lukes testing centre was largely empty. There wasn’t much demand at testing centres in Northcote and on Kitchener Street in the CBD, either. 

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Daily case numbers have more than doubled to 23 while unlinked cases have risen to 36, up seven from Friday. Source: 1 NEWS

Whānau Ora community testing sites operations manager Dr Aash Raj said he was preparing for a testing surge on Saturday after Bloomfield’s comments. 

But, Raj said Saturday’s testing numbers at the four sites he was looking after were typical for a normal weekend. 

The low numbers could be because Aucklanders were getting complacent as they neared four weeks at Alert Level 4. 

“People are tired … it’s just human behaviour.” 

He said it was “absolutely” crucial for Aucklanders to get tested this weekend if they were symptomatic so that they could give Cabinet as much information as possible about the extent of the outbreak. 

“As we come down [alert] levels, we need any and every case that’s in Auckland to be known,” Raj said. 

“We can only know the number of cases if people get tested.” 

Walk-in Covid-19 testing in Auckland's CBD. Source: 1 NEWS

He said the sites he manages can complete about 600 Covid-19 tests a day, and have the capacity to scale up. So, he said people shouldn’t worry about long waits. 

Meanwhile, the Auckland Airport drive-through vaccination centre is aiming to get 3000 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine administered by the end of Saturday. By midday, about 2000 people had received a jab. 

Dr Anand Desai, the vaccination site lead, said more people were now making appointments to get their vaccines. 

That could be a reason why daily vaccination numbers have dropped slightly from the peaks seen in August, Desai said. 

“We’ve had a very strict lockdown, a very quick lockdown, and now we’re starting to see the fruits of those labours and those sacrifices Aucklanders and the rest of the country have made,” he said. 

“People are not as anxious and fearful, and that’s probably another reason why some of those peaks are attenuated. 

“But, there’s definitely still demand out there [for the vaccine].” 

The Ministry of Health reported 23 new community Covid-19 cases in Auckland today. Of those 14 are epidemiologically linked to the current Delta outbreak, and the rest are being investigated further. 

There were 15,241 Covid-19 tests processed around the country in the past 24 hours, with 7196 of those from Auckland. 

On Friday, 64,775 doses of the vaccine were administered.