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Fever sparks trip to Covid-19 test centre

The moment my temperature hit 37.8c was one I had been dreading.

I had been feeling under the weather for a few days so our thermometer had been employed even more often than since the pandemic began.

And even though I had sudden chills one afternoon, I was surprised to see my temperature shoot up so high.

Coronavirus (34641870)
Coronavirus (34641870)

As a key worker I was eligible for a test, so I quickly went online to www.gov.uk/apply-coronavirus-test and filled out the form.

After submitting an application you are texted an access code allowing you to choose a test centre and appointment time.

Despite it being late afternoon by this time I was able to book tests for my husband and I in Ipswich first thing the following morning.

Clara models latex gloves while her mum, reporter Camille Berriman, takes a Covid-19 test (34641741)
Clara models latex gloves while her mum, reporter Camille Berriman, takes a Covid-19 test (34641741)

So the next day we headed down the deserted A14 with our daughter Clara cheerily singing from the back seat. It felt surreal.

On arrival at the test centre you are instructed to keep all your car windows closed and asked to show your booking confirmation email, which is scanned through the window before you are directed further into the site to one of several test stations.

At a tented area an official waves the car to a stop and holds up a sign printed with a mobile telephone number. My husband called the number and instructions were explained over the phone before we were instructed to open a rear window two inches so the test packs could be deposited inside. It was a bit of a faff, as my ancient car does not have electric rear windows so we had to climb round to wind them down.

We then drove to a parking bay to conduct the self test.

The kit includes a unique test receipt card with your personal barcode; printed step-by-step instructions, a sheet of barcode labels, a zip-lock bag containing a sealed swab and plastic vial containing liquid; a sheet of absorbent material and a biohazard bag with seal.

The test itself involves cleaning your hands with sanitiser, blowing your nose gently and coughing into a tissue before you begin.

Using the swab, you open your mouth and rub it over both tonsils and the back of the throat for 10 seconds.

Let’s be clear, this is not a particularly pleasant experience.

As my husband and I were gagging while we swabbed our throats I was suddenly struck by the absurdity of the situation, started to giggle and then cry with laughter – all the while with the swab still at the back of my throat.

An inquisitive little voice piped up from the back seat asking ‘why are you laughing mummy and daddy, does it tickle?’ as Clara modelled the superfluous latex gloves which had been included with our test kits.

After the gagging incident we then had to put the same end of the same swab gently into one of our nostrils until we felt resistance and rotate it for 10-15 seconds.

This part felt a little uncomfortable, but prompted no gagging.

Once the test is complete you bag it all up as instructed and drive to the exit, where you open the window just enough to pop the test in a bin offered by a steward.

The results can take up to five days, but ours came through about 28 hours later.

My husband’s was negative while mine was ‘not clear’, so off I went back to the test centre for a second test (wondering all the while whether my giggling fit was to blame for the unclear result).

The next results took more than two days, so it was a great relief when I received a text to say I was negative and could finally leave the self isolation of my bedroom.

While having two coronavirus tests is never going to go down as one of my favourite life experiences, it was memorable. And I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again if I showed symptoms. After all, I’m now a pro.