What happens when you go to have a Covid-19 test and how does it work?

Cherry Tree testing centre. Picture: Ricci Fothergill

Cherry Tree testing centre. Picture: Ricci Fothergill - Credit: Ricci Fothergill

The Cherry Tree Covid-19 walk-through testing centre in South Hornchurch opened in September. The Recorder has been along to see how it works and what you can expect when you get tested.

The entrance of the Cherry Tree centre. Picture: Ricci Fothergill

The entrance of the Cherry Tree centre. Picture: Ricci Fothergill - Credit: Ricci Fothergill

As well as the centre in Cherry Tree Lane car park, the council has announced a new permanent testing centre will open in Romford Town Hall to replace the temporary one. The mobile site will continue to operate in another location in the borough. There are also two other testing centres.

From behind a screen, reporter Adriana Elgueta is handed a testing pack. Picture: Ricci Fothergill

From behind a screen, reporter Adriana Elgueta is handed a testing pack. Picture: Ricci Fothergill - Credit: Ricci Fothergill

The best way to get a test is to book online but when not fully booked the site will accept people without appointments. You must wear a mask at all times around the centre when not doing your test.

Masks are provided if do not have one. Picture: Ricci Fothergill

Masks are provided if do not have one. Picture: Ricci Fothergill - Credit: Ricci Fothergill

The test takes only a couple of minutes, which you self-administer and doesn’t cause any discomfort (it’s no longer nurses who administer or put a metal swab far back in your throat/nose).

Entering the "red zone". Picture: Ricci Fothergill

Entering the "red zone". Picture: Ricci Fothergill - Credit: Ricci Fothergill

You most likely will get the results back (by phone and/or email) in a day, or 48 hours at the latest.

Stewards are on hand to talk you through anything. Picture: Ricci Fothergill

Stewards are on hand to talk you through anything. Picture: Ricci Fothergill - Credit: Ricci Fothergill


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On arrival, you show your QR code, you’re shown to a booth – all are separated by plastic gazebo walls – and you’re given a pack with a swab and a vial.

Inside the separated booths. Picture: Ricci Fothergill

Inside the separated booths. Picture: Ricci Fothergill - Credit: Ricci Fothergill

You’re asked to blow your nose, then you swab your mouth then nose. You then break the swab in half, put it into the vial, seal the vial, and you put it into a plastic sealed packet. You give that back and you leave the other way out of the one-way system.

Councillor Damian White swabbing himself. Picture: Ricci Fothergill

Councillor Damian White swabbing himself. Picture: Ricci Fothergill - Credit: Ricci Fothergill

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Staff at the centre are sanitising constantly and have to wear PPE in order enter the testing area, the “red zone”. The PPE is discarded as soon as they leave.

You break the plastic swab in half and put it in the vial which contains liquid. Picture: Ricci Fothergill

You break the plastic swab in half and put it in the vial which contains liquid. Picture: Ricci Fothergill - Credit: Ricci Fothergill

At the moment, Cherry Tree is testing about 240 people in a day, says the site manager. At the time of our testing (November 24) the centre was experiencing a medium level of busyness.

If you walk in without booking, you must make sure your test is registered. Picture: Ricci Fothergill

If you walk in without booking, you must make sure your test is registered. Picture: Ricci Fothergill - Credit: Ricci Fothergill

The sites are open from 8am until 8pm daily, including weekends. Other sites in Havering are in Rainham Road in Rainham, Dagnam Park Drive, Harold Hill and Havering Town Hall.

Handing the test packet back in. Picture: Ricci Fothergill

Handing the test packet back in. Picture: Ricci Fothergill - Credit: Ricci Fothergill

Leader of the council, councillor Damian White and a representative from the Department of Health and Social Care have been on site to see how everything is working.

Cllr White said: “I know some people are concerned about being tested. I therefore wanted to see for myself how easy it is to be tested and was pleasantly surprised.

“It isn’t painful and is over quickly. I also know some people are worried about how they will cope if they have to stop working and go into self-isolation. Financial support is available and we’re here to help them through the process, whether it’s how to get their shopping and still isolate or how they can get support with their mental health.”

Tests can be booked by visiting www.nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119.

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