© New Zealand Broadcasting School 2020

Getting a Covid-19 test - what to expect

Hugo Cameron
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A Taupō man explains the ‘surreal’ experience of being tested for the coronavirus.

As New Zealand went into lockdown on March 23, Taupō architects Fraser Cameron and Belinda Ellis found themselves with a dry cough and shortness of breath.

They’d recently been on a business trip to Nelson where they stayed in lodging with American visitors - at the time many confirmed cases in NZ were people returning from the US.

Fearing the worst, Cameron got in touch with his local medical centre who organised a drive-in test.

He’d had a similar experience when tested for measles during the outbreak last year, except this time the check up was done by healthcare professionals in full protective gear.

“The doctor who inspected us was wearing the full kit, so it was quite a weird experience because I’d never seen anything like that before,” Cameron explained.

He said the testers had great communication throughout the test and seemed relaxed, coming right up to the car and explaining each step of the process.

The couple were first checked for pneumonia but were both cleared.

Then came the swabbing.

“The big surprise with the swab is the length of the swab,” Cameron said with a laugh.

“That’s where you start to feel a little nervous about what’s about to happen. It’s one enormous cotton bud.”

He explained that there were two swabs - one for the nasal cavity and another for the back of the throat.

“[The doctor] said ‘this is going to be unpleasant’,” said Cameron.

“It goes what seems like half a metre or so into the centre of your head before it hits the back of your nasal passages... the sensation was unusually unpleasant.”

The throat swab presented another uncomfortable experience, Cameron said.

“It goes right to the back of your throat, you can’t help but gag,” he explained.

After this the two were allowed to go home and wait for a result, which they were told would be ready in three to four days.

A negative result came back in just two days, but they were told to act like they had the virus for a while in case the test gave a false negative.

Cameron said although some of the testing wasn’t enjoyable, it was brief (the whole thing took about 15-20 minutes) and was handled very well by the healthcare workers.

“I feel very confident in the medical situation we have in New Zealand,” Cameron said.

He said anyone going to be tested should keep in mind that it would be perfectly harmless, if a bit uncomfortable.