Home testing for Covid-19

Covid test components – bags, vials and swabs

As part of this long lockdown I’ve been tracking my health through the app developed by the Covid Sympton Study I try and go in and record symptons (or lack of them) daily.

During the nearly 2 months I’ve been doing this (I think it’s 2 months, time gets a bit concatenated) I’ve had 2 sets of not quite right; the first in the middle of March with a heavy chest and breathing, the second this last week with itchy, weeping eyes and again a heavy chest. No other symptons apart from those – which could be a chest infection and then later hayfever. I’ve also not been out the house for 6 weeks – so if I am positive now, it’s been a long, slow burn or I’ve caught it off a delivery. (very unlikely)

On Friday, I received an email from the study, asking me to take a test, either because my symptoms have triggered something, or I’m in a control group.

“As you know, we are using data from millions of people to determine who may have COVID-19 based on their symptoms. You’ve recently reported feeling unwell with a particular combination of symptoms. We would like to test you to understand if you have the virus right now. This does not necessarily mean you have COVID-19 as we are also inviting some people we believe do not have the virus.”

(email from Covid 19 sudy)

So here is my experience to date, to compare with the account of a drive in test from Nick

  • Email came in during the evening. Clicked through to Government test site and saw I had options for booking a drive through or to order a test. Trying to find out WHERE the drive through test would be and if I could walk to it failed – there is no real information, so it meant I needed a home test. None available, as not bookable until the morning.
  • Logged on at 8am and home test available. Filled in form, following the instructions in the email to make sure categories were correct. Disconnect 1: Instructions and form fields to complete were not aligned between email and actual form
  • 1230 am Sunday – so 16.5 hours after booking – got an email that test had been despatched and was due that day. It is delivered by Amazon
  • Sunday afternoon – test arrives. I wiped it down; by the time I opened it, it was too late to book a courier. The courier has to be booked BEFORE taking test and you can only book until 4pm
  • Monday, fully read the 12 page booklet, which covers the 5 steps. They have done their best to make something quite complicated simple to follow, but it is still complicated. I would guess there are going to be many wrongly done tests, or wrongly labelled tests. Booked courier. It is collected by eCourier (or Royal Mail)
  • Monday evening; registered test and then took test. You need to do it between 9pm and 7am before the courier. Red the instructions, laid everything out. Slowly followed the instructions and still got one step wrong! (missed a label, managed to get it sorted)
    • wash hands.
    • take swab and swirl it on tonsils (or where tonsils were in my case) for 15 seconds, not touching tongue, teeth or rest of mouth.
    • put same swab up nose about an inch. swirl it for 15 seconds. (get this the right way round throat before nose!)
    • Put swab in vial (and remember to loosen it first, as you can’t put swab down to open it
    • Label (or do this before), but in plastic bag one, put in plastic bag 2 and seal; label again, put it in the packaging box (not the easiest to build), security seal it, put address label on.
  • At this point, i think about the account of the drive through study who needed to do the testing in a car. HOW!! you need room, you need to be able to lay things out. A hard job there.
  • Wait. The courier is due between 8am and 4pm on Tuesday
  • 4:15pm Tuesday. No courier. Follow instructions on email (and instruction booklet) and call the service centre (because there’s a time limit on test liability. Disconnect 2: Service Centre has time for collection until 6pm, unlike email, booklet and courier booking website. Disconnect 3: the service centre can’t do anything and gives me a number to call the courier.
  • Call courier. Wait. Disconnect 4: I shouldn’t call the courier, I need to email. He gives me an email address. A PERSONAL email address. I wonder how many emails poor Charlie is getting. Disconnect 5: You book the courier before the test as there is 48 hours from the swab before expiring (according to the booklet) – so it needs to be TESTED before 48 hours. If you delay the courier to the next day, then unlikely to be tested. Courier companyseems to think 48 hours for collecting.
  • 4:45pm. Courier turns up
  • 4:50 pm I get an email thanking me for ordering my Covid test. Wondering if this is a mistake, or if one of the calls I made just triggered a new order. (and I assume added the wrong order to the daily stats?)

Now I wait for results, which should come by test in the next 2-3 days. It’s a complex series of steps to get right; it’s not an easy test to self-adminster. Having a simpler blood antigen test can’t come soon enough!

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