By Ciéra Cree
A little while ago I was randomly selected to take part in a COVID-19 testing research study being conducted by Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI, an independent research organisation, on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC). I was sent a letter detailing this which I woke up to receive one morning, under the assumption that it was about something else. When I opened it and read about the chance to take part in this voluntary pilot research I decided to sign up; having the chance to be COVID tested was not something that I was going to pass down, especially before university is due to start up again.
I thought that I would share a bit about the process with you, not because it’s overly difficult, but more to show people what a test entails in case they are unaware and to hopefully reassure people that it isn’t complicated to carry out if they are offered the opportunity to do this as well.
You are firstly sent a double-sided letter providing you with details of the study. The front of the page addresses you, informing you that you have been selected and it tells you how to register (if you were to so wish) through the use of a unique eight-digit code. To sign up for the study you can either input this code into the registration website or you can contact their free-phone number. The other side of the page contains a broken down list of details about various other aspects of the test including who is carrying out the study, how your data was gathered in order for this initial contact to have been made, what doing the test will involve and whether you will receive the results of your test.
If you agree to do it, you will then receive confirmation emails and/or a confirmation text, as well as a home test kit between a period of time which you will be notified about. The test kit that I received is one which will only let me know if I have the virus currently, not if I have ever had it previously. The tests which detail both of these information’s are not yet widely available but there is hope for this in the future.
The test kit itself contains six elements: a self-assembly box, an instructions booklet, a biohazard bag with a security seal, a security seal for the main box, a sealed pack containing a swab and a plastic vial, and a sheet of labels (two serial number labels to be affixed to the biohazard bag and the vial). There is also another letter inside of the box which thanks you for your participation and shares with you further information about the test.
Before taking the test participants need to go online and book a special courier. They will arrive on the day that you choose, placing a box at your doorstep for you to put your completed test in (which is all packed away inside of the provided self-assembly box). This will then be brought to a laboratory for testing and you can expect a result to come back within a week. Participants are asked, if possible, to complete the test within a week of receiving the kit in the mail.
The test itself asks for a simple swab of the nose and throat. The swab is a long stick with a marked breaking point on it which you snap after administering the test. You then place the shortened swab inside of the vial which is then securely stored inside of the biohazard bag. It is recommended to you to do this test on the morning that your courier is due to arrive in order to have the test as fresh as possible but if this really isn’t an option you can do it the night before. Couriers can arrive any time between 8am-6pm and although they may contact you with a more specific time slot that unfortunately isn’t always the case.
Regardless of when the test is taken, you are asked to place it in a refrigerator afterwards as the bacteria needs to be kept cool at all times. I recommend packaging your sample away inside of the self-assembly box first and then putting this inside of a sandwich bag before sitting it in the refrigerator for hygiene purposes.
Once your test has been completed there is an online survey available for taking which asks questions about your health and about your experience with the test. The information booklet deems this survey as ‘very important’ so that the researchers involved in the study ‘can assess the symptoms associated with positive tests.’
And that’s what the COVID-19 home test entails! There is, of course, some points of general assistance detailed within the information booklet provided such as not to touch the soft end of the swab with your hands or anything, and there is also a video available online which walks participants through how to take the test but aside from this, I have told you the main points.
Please take care everyone, and stay safe!
On Friday 28th August 2020, Ciéra received an email to say that she had tested negative.