Last week myself and my children had to have a Covid-19 test done as we were all showing mild symptoms. I had a headache and sore throat, my daughter had a cough and croaky voice and the boys were both snotty and sneezing. None of us had high temperature, continuous cough or loss of sense of smell/taste. I rang NHS direct for advice as I wasn’t sure at what point we needed to be tested though. They advised I book us tests straight away and self-isolate until we received the results.
Using the government website at 11am I booked our tests for 2pm the same day. I received a text message confirmation and emails for each of us with our own unique QR codes. You need to take hand sanitiser and tissues with you. The test centre was only 20 minutes away and very easy to get to. It was clearly signposted and staff were on the gate to wave us through.
When you arrive at a drive-in test centre it is literally like something out of a movie. There are rows and rows of cone markers, huge tents and staff everywhere in high-vis jackets. It really is quite surreal. I almost expected them to be in hazmat suits! Cameras are not allowed and dash cams also have to be switched off so I’m afraid I don’t have any photos. When you get there though you’ll see what I mean.
The first tent we were stopped at had a man in front of us holding up a sign for us to read. It welcomed us to the site and explained the rules. You must keep your windows closed unless told to lower them. No cameras. Follow instructions from staff. He then held up a telephone number for me to call (take your mobile phone with you). This was to a mobile phone he was holding so he could speak to me properly and explain the process. He checked how many of us were in the car and asked me to lower the passenger window. Another staff member then dropped the test kits onto the empty seat.
Next I was sent forward to another man stood holding up a sign asking if there were children in the car to be tested. I nodded yes and was directed to the next tent. Here we were shown through to the parking area where you carry out your test. I was directed to reverse park in our spot. A man then spoke to me through the window (keeping it closed) telling me to put the hazard lights on if we needed any help or when we were finished. If you need urgent help you must beep your horn.
Now parked I set about opening up the first kit and reading the instructions. Your kit includes a test swab, test tube with small amount of liquid in the bottom, paper towel, clear plastic bag with absorbent pad and a second clear plastic bag with bar code, test receipt card as well as the instructions.
There is also a handy video online which shows you how to do the test. It’s well worth a watch before you go to your test. Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/zCqo7MhQT6U
I decided to do mine first so the kids could see what to expect. You need to blow your nose to make sure it’s clear before you begin.
The tests are tricky to do. There’s no point lying about it. First you need to rub the swab against both your tonsils for 10 seconds (or where you tonsils would have been if they’ve been removed). This inevitably will make you gag. It’s not as easy as rubbing the inside of your cheek. It isn’t painful but it is an unpleasant feeling. Once you’ve swabbed your tonsils you then use the same stick to swab inside your nostril. Do this for 10-15 seconds. For children, if you cannot swab their tonsils (believe me it would be almost impossible) you can instead swab inside both nostrils for 10-15 seconds each.
Once you have finished the swabbing you put the tip inside the test tube and snap the handle at the break point. Seal the lid on the top and put it inside the plastic bag with the absorbent pad. Then put it inside the clear plastic bag with the barcode on it. Do not seal them yet. Use your hand sanitiser to now clean your hands.
Once you have done all the tests (making sure you know who’s is who’s) put your hazard lights on. A member of staff will come over and ask you to hold up each bag to the window so they can check the swab is in the test tube properly. They will then ask you to hold up each bag alongside your phone with the QR code for each person which you received via email when you booked the test. They will scan both of these through the window. This logs each test against the correct person so they know who it belongs to.
Once all your tests have been scanned you will be told to drive to the next tent. Here you will lower your window and drop the test kits into the box provided. You now need to return home and continue to self isolate until you receive your results.
Your results should arrive within 48 hours of your test. We had our tests at 2pm on the Monday and received our results at 10am the following morning. Our results came via text message.
I hope this helps those of you who are having a test done. The video (see link above) is well worth a watch as well before you. It’s not a pleasant test but it’s certainly not painful and shouldn’t be feared. Just listen carefully to the staff, read the instructions thoroughly and you’ll be absolutely fine. Fingers crossed for a negative test result!
Disclaimer: I am sharing my personal experience of myself and my childrens tests at a drive-in test centre however each centre may vary slightly. Always follow instructions given by NHS 111/119 and the test centre staff.