‘It’s just too much’: frustrated Fairfield residents queue for hours for mandatory Covid tests in Sydney

People waiting hours to get a Covid-19 test in Sydney’s Fairfield have expressed confusion and frustration at the new requirements for essential workers.

Long queues formed on Tuesday night and continued on Wednesday after the New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian, announced essential workers living in the Fairfield local government area (LGA) must get tested every three days.

Berejiklian said on Wednesday that asymptomatic essential workers could attend Covid testing clinics near their workplaces to ease pressure on Fairfield’s test sites, but conceded the new rules had created long waiting times.

“We accept that people had to wait a long time. We experienced this as well at the northern beaches. What is important for us is to communicate our decisions as quickly as we can and then provide that operational support,” she said.

But waiting lines remained long at the Fairfield Showground testing site on Wednesday, with cars snaking through the carparks and spilling out on to Smithfield Road.

Lara Trkulja, an essential healthcare worker, held back tears as she explained her frustrations at the mandate.

“It’s insane that I have to do this. I’ve been waiting here for an hour and a half, and we’re barely close,” she said.

“It’s just too draining at the moment. You come home emotionally and physically drained, and then you have to line up again. It’s just too much.

“They’ve got to have more pop-up clinics to do this. They’ve got to have other plans in place.”

Trkulja said the community has felt targeted by authorities, pointing out how many of the local community had turned up for testing when asked.

“I know it started off in the east, and I know we have a lot more cases here, but their side didn’t have to do any of this,” she said.

“We’re subjected to this, but where it started, they’re walking around like everything’s fine. Why are we having to get tested every three days?

“There’s definitely panic going around. You just don’t know what’s going to happen. You do the right thing, and it feels like it’s not enough.”

Jan Daod, who runs a cleaning company, told Guardian Australia he’d been in line for two hours. It was his second attempt to get tested, after he queued up on Tuesday night, but was turned away when the clinic closed at 7pm.

“I can’t do my job. I have to do the test and wait 24 hours, and then get tested again in three days. How can I work? I can’t work.”

, ‘It’s just too much’: frustrated Fairfield residents queue for hours for mandatory Covid tests in Sydney, The Nzuchi Times Guardian
Jan Daod, who owns a cleaning business, said he waited at least two hours in his van for a Covid test on Wednesday. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

Clearly frustrated, Daod said he was losing business because of the outbreak, which began in Bondi.

“I’m very upset. This is not good, it’s very, very bad. Why do we have to do this?

“They’re blaming us, but we got this shit from other areas.”

Daod said he started his business in February and had been building up his customer base, but had now lost them.

, ‘It’s just too much’: frustrated Fairfield residents queue for hours for mandatory Covid tests in Sydney, The Nzuchi Times Guardian

“No one wants me to go out to sites because they’re scared,” he said.

“If they make it easier, it might be better. Getting tested every three days is just silly. Once a week, once a fortnight is just easier. No one can work otherwise.”

The NSW treasurer Dominic Perrottet apologised for the long wait times on behalf of the government, but there’s no sign the new rule will be relaxed. NSW recorded 97 new locally acquired cases on Wednesday, with the premier praising Fairfield for heeding the health advice.

“Fairfield has responded in an outstanding way,” she said. “At this stage, three quarters of the cases are still in the Fairfield local government area.”

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Ben Bona works for a construction company in the area, and said he understood why the government had introduced such a rule, but questioned the lack of preparation.

“If they knew beforehand, and could prepare, that would have taken a big load off their backs. I think that should have been done by the government first and foremost. It just seemed to come out of nowhere.”

Bona had been waiting since 6.30am to get tested.

“It has to be done, one way or another. Obviously it is frustrating, it is taking time off from the work that I have to do. But there’s no point complaining. What can you do?”

Vesna Mostrarc, who works in logistics outside the Fairfield LGA, had gone straight to the testing site after working an overnight shift.

“It’s a bit extreme. It’s hard to have to do this every three days. It’s just a lot, it’s a hassle.

“I’ve been waiting for hours now, it’s ridiculous. It’s crazy how many people are here.”

, ‘It’s just too much’: frustrated Fairfield residents queue for hours for mandatory Covid tests in Sydney, The Nzuchi Times Guardian
Long queues of cars snaked around the Fairfield Showground Covid-19 testing site. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

Kas Ahmed, a traffic controller at the site, expected the site would get even busier later in the day.

“The past week was actually quiet, but from yesterday, it was crazy. But we do our best to make it smooth for everyone, we just need a little patience.”

Leii, a local retail worker, said she had come down to get tested before she went to work, and had been waiting more than 90 minutes in her car.

“It’s devastating and frustrating that I have to get tested every three days now.

“And it’s only the Fairfield area. I feel like we’re targeted out here, the other areas didn’t have to get tested this much, only us.

“It’s going to be a long wait, it’s really bad.”

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