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What it is really like to have a Covid-19 test

What it is really like to have a Covid-19 test

Published by Sarah Yeoman at 6:35am 19th May 2020.

Written by Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporter

Of all the places I expected to be on a Monday morning an abandoned car park off an industrial estate having my throat swabbed was not one of them.

But there I was, bright and early this morning in Plymouth to be tested for Covid-19.

I was invited to book a test after downloading the COVID Symptom Study app which is being run by Kings College London and health company ZOE.

The app, which has been downloaded by 3.6 million participants, is said to be the “largest public science project of its kind anywhere in the world”.

Data collected through the app is being used to research the different symptoms being reported by people across the UK.

This will help develop understanding of the symptoms and also helps to track Covid-19 cases, showing how fast it is spreading in various parts of the UK and which areas are at high risk.

Having downloaded the app participants are asked to provide a daily update on their symptoms and how they are feeling – this takes less than a minute.


Over the weekend I had been feeling rundown, had a sore throat and had also noticed a strange blister-type spot on one of my toes.

I shared this information with the app and thought nothing of it – I didn’t have a high temperature or the dry cough which have been cited as “classic” symptoms of the Covid-19 virus.

As far as I was concerned I felt a bit tired so took some time to relax and thought I might have had the start of a summer cold.

I was surprised to see a question on the app about spots and blisters on feet and toes, this wasn’t something I considered to be significant at all.

When I received an email from the people behind the app I wasn’t really expecting it and initially felt that it was a bit unnecessary to get a test done.

But a line in the email made me rethink: “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.”

Even if I don’t have the virus I considered that it would be worth having a test to help with the research which is being undertaken.

coronavirus test covid-19

Directed to the government website to book a test I was offered an opportunity to have a test in Penzance, Bude or Plymouth.

With Plymouth being closer to my home and also having more appointments available – each site is listed with the number of slots over the next five days – I selected it.

Booking a slot was simple – a whole list of times were provided and all I had to do was provide my car registration and select a time.

Just over an hour later I was pulling up in Plymouth and being directed into the centre. After having the QR code I was sent checked twice – while being instructed to keep my windows closed – I was then shown where to stop my car.

Here a lady called Debbie introduced herself and explained that she would be doing my test. She was kitted out in PPE with a face mask, visor, gloves and apron.

After warning me that it could be uncomfortable Debbie put the swab deep into my mouth and rubbed it. Then it went up one of my nostrils for a 10-second poke around.

And then that was it, I wound my window back up and drove off. It was no more than a few minutes from my arrival to heading for home.

I now await the results which will be emailed and/or send via text message. Whatever the result I hope that the information will be used to help scientists to understand this devastating virus.

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