The journey a COVID-19 swab must take to be tested just got a whole lot shorter, thanks to new technology at a local laboratory.
Tests taken from patients across the New England North West, including Gunnedah, can now be analysed in the NSW Health Pathology Tamworth centre, instead of being transported to Newcastle.
Lab supervisor Don Clausen said the change could shave more than a day off the wait time for residents to receive results.
"We're talking about having a turnaround time of up to 24 hours, as opposed to 48 or 72," he said.
"Being able to perform COVID testing here is really important for our region ... if we can do them here, we take one step out of the whole process, which actually reduces the time enormously."
Tamworth can now process coronavirus tests taken from anywhere between Tenterfield and Quirindi.
Mr Clausen said the process for a local resident's COVID-19 swab is this: the test is conducted by a health professional, the swab is transported to a lab for registering, then it's transported to a testing location.
Previously, that test site for local swabs was Newcastle. But now, they all stay in Tamworth, cutting out the courier time.
"It's difficult getting samples from some of the smaller towns to us in a timely manner, and then we add the trip to Newcastle and the time stretches out," Mr Clausen said.
The city's molecular biology machine has been undergoing testing and has been screening about 20 COVID-19 swabs per day for the past two weeks, though it has the capacity to test up to 200 per day if needed.
None of those tests have been positive yet.
"We know the cases are out there and it's not a huge leap to have someone travel from Sydney up to Tamworth and intermingle, so the risk is there, and we need to be vigilant," Mr Clausen said.
He said the machine could be "extremely useful" in testing samples for other conditions, once the COVID demand drops off.
"It's extremely exciting, it takes this lab to the next level," Mr Clausen said.