Sunday, February 25, 2024

Covid-19 testing: New traffic plan to ease Botany congestion

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Community social media sites are inundated with comments from east Auckland travellers frustrated by long traffic delays due to the sudden popularity of the Covid-19 testing station on Botany Road.

A common theme was the need for more testing centres as concern about a second wave of Covid-19 grows.

The Times approached the Northern Region DHB for comment regarding whether initiatives are underway to alleviate to long wait times.

Today in Parliament independent Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross raised the same issue at question time with Health Minister Dr David Clark who said DHBs in Auckland were looking into it.

“Is he (the Health Minister) aware of the high volume of testing at the Botany Road testing site that is resulting in long wait times for patients and traffic gridlock in surrounding streets, if so, what actions are being taken to better manage testing at this site?” Ross asked.

Clark replied: ““I have been advised by Northern Region DHBs that high demand for Covid-19 testing is leading to unprecedented queues at many of the Community Based Assessment Centres (CBACs) in Auckland.

“The DHBs say they are very aware of the impact on communities where these are situations and they are working closely with community police and Auckland Transport to address these impacts.”

Ross continued: “Will he ensure the testing location for East Auckland is moved to a site with better access so testing wait times can be reduced, and traffic can be more appropriately managed?”

The Minister answered: “I’m advised the three Auckland DHBs are urgently reviewing their testing capacity across the city and the number and locations of CBACs to develop solutions to the issues arising from current high demand.

“The DHB chief executives are monitoring the situation closely and are receiving updates and advice several times a day.”

Ross told the Times this afternoon: “It’s clear the testing site on Botany Road is not coping. The surprise with this is that during the height of lockdown and concern with Covid-19 the site was operating fine.

“The alarm and scaremongering in the current political environment seems to have led to high demand for testing. Fortunately we haven’t seen any examples of community transmission that some politicians are claiming.

Ross believes a more appropriate location for east Auckland testing is Lloyd Elsmore Park and has made contact with Counties Manukau DHB CEO Margie Apa with this recommendation.

“I raised these issues in Parliament with the Minister of Health because they are of high importance, not just to our community, but to wider confidence in the testing regime,” Ross said.

“If people cannot effectively access a testing site, they will lose confidence that the Covid-19 management plans are working well.”

Meanwhile a DHB spokesperson told the Times: “The high demand for testing for Covid-19 testing is leading to unprecedented queues at many of our CBACs in metropolitan Auckland.

“We are very aware of the impact on the communities where these are situated and want to thank local residents and commuters for their patience. We are working closely with community police and Auckland Transport to address these impacts.

“At the Spectrum House CBAC on Botany Road, new traffic management plans were put in place yesterday (June 24) and these are regularly reviewed and updated. In response to the demand for community testing we are also reviewing the number and location of CBACs across the city.

“Our message to the public is that we have capacity to test everyone who meets the national criteria for Covid-19 testing but they should plan for longer than usual wait times at our CBACs. Our CBAC teams are working tirelessly to meet the current demand and are testing people as quickly as possible.

“It’s very encouraging that people’s awareness and responsiveness to testing remains high.

“We ask that people help us by calling Healthline or their GP to see if they need to be tested or not.

“There is currently no community spread in Auckland and the only members of the general public who need to be tested are those who have symptoms of COVID-19 and meet the Ministry of Health’s high index of suspicion (HIT) criteria.

“Testing of people in managed isolation and quarantine or working in these facilities is managed separately.”

Heavy traffic on Botany Rd due to long lines at Covid-19 testing facility. Photo Jim Birchall

Community-based testing centres in the Northern Region

The number of CBACs has changed over time. During March and April, a total of 14 testing centres were set up in metropolitan Auckland – most in a matter of days. In Northland, seven testing centres were set up.

“These centres were used almost exclusively for providing communities with safe and convenient access to swabbing.”

“Metro Auckland now has seven community-based testing centres, with four of these open seven days a week. These centres have been equally busy with consistent testing numbers across all seven sites.”

“There is also significant testing by primary care and mobile testing units. These options continue to ensure there is good geographical coverage and capacity for Covid-19 testing for our communities.”

“CBACs in the Northern Region will continue for as long as they’re needed, providing additional capacity for testing already taking place in primary care.”

“We test people based on the latest case definition which is set by the Ministry of Health.

“If you are unwell and have Covid-19 symptoms, please contact your GP or call Healthline for guidance on whether testing is needed.”

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