The NSW health minister has accused the Queensland premier of “effectively perverting the purposes of pathology testing” as travellers seeking COVID-19 tests clog up the already overwhelmed system.
It comes as the state reported another 6062 infections on Tuesday, down 172 on the day before.
But the number of tests processed dropped again, down to about 93,500, compared to the 164,000 processed last Thursday.
Wait times have now blown out to the point the test results are no longer relevant, Brad Hazzard told Nine newspapers.
“If Queensland thinks people are arriving free of COVID, that’s not necessarily true.
“These tests have been done three or four days before arriving; it’s counterproductive.
“This rule is contributing to the breakdown of the biggest pathology system in the country.
“We are not getting the turnaround times we need.”
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is under pressure to change the requirement travellers have a negative PCR test within 72 hours of coming to the state, given wait times have exploded beyond that window of time anyway.
But Ms Palaszczuk denies the rule is contributing significantly to NSW’s testing woes.
Adding to the mayhem, a Sydney pathology laboratory run by St Vincent’s Hospital has admitted to two testing blunders in as many days, revealing on Monday almost 1000 people were told they were COVID-19 negative when in fact their results hadn’t been returned yet.
About half have since been confirmed to have the virus.
The admission came a day after the hospital confirmed that more than 400 people who initially received a negative result on Christmas Day were notified on Boxing Day they had actually tested positive.
Meanwhile, healthcare workers exposed to COVID-19 will be able to leave isolation and return to work after seven days instead of 14 under new guidelines.
Workers who are close household contacts will need to have a negative PCR test on day six and follow a risk assessment plan before returning to work.
The plan includes daily rapid antigen testing and wearing a mask at all times.
But those exposed in the community will be able to return to work after a negative PCR test on day two.
People exposed in the workplace will have their isolation and testing requirements determined by a workplace risk assessment.
The change comes with 2000 NSW healthcare workers furloughed, and after the number of people hospitalised with the virus doubled over the past week.
A total of 557 people are in hospital, up 30, with 60 of them in intensive care.
The state also reported one death on Tuesday.
NSW Labor health spokesman Ryan Park said testing chaos and hospital staffing woes are evidence the government needs to ask for help.
He wants them to lobby the Commonwealth or other states for support, which has come in the form of extra nurses and defence force members at other stages during the pandemic.