A BBC worker winced as she plunged a swab to the back of her throat while being tested for the new strain South African strain of coronavirus.
Carol Hall, from Ealing, West London, was one of the first of around 350,000 people in eight postcodes around the UK to be tested for the mutant strain today.
She arrived at a special testing site manned by volunteers off the high street at West Ealing.
Door to door testing is also taking place in the affected districts as health officials join forces with local police, councillors and firefighters to visit thousands of homes.
Carol Hall (pictured), from Ealing, West London, was up bright and early and at her testing centre at 9am. The BBC worker said the experience wasn’t pleasant, but urged others to do it
Long queues formed along West Ealing’s high street this morning near a pop up testing centre as people in the area were eager to get themselves tested for the mutant South African strain
Ms Hall, a BBC researcher arrived at the variant testing centre, located in a car park beside West Ealing’s busy high street, 15 minutes before it opened at 9am.
She told MailOnline: ‘I live outside the affected area but do all my shopping in it, which is why I got myself tested.
‘The test caused me a bit of discomfort. You have to shove the the stick all the way back to your tonsils. It made me cough and gag but then so was everybody else. It’s not pleasant but it’s very minor discomfort.’
Kim Taylor in Woking, Surrey, opens wide for one of 9,000 door to door swab tests today
She added: ‘I feel fine now and am glad that I’ve had the test.’
Ms Hall said that she is still going into the office twice a week, which also influenced her decision to get tested as soon as news of the South African strain in the West London suburb emerged.
An estimated 5,500 households in the W7 and W13 postcode areas of the borough have been identified as being in the affected area, after a local man tested positive for the South African strain even though he had not left the country.
Long queues stretched around the block from early morning after local council officials urged them to get tested for the strain as quickly as possible.
An online booking system was scrapped with all residents encouraged to simply turn up in a desperate attempt by authorities to keep track of its spread.
Residents expressed concerns at news of the strain in their local community, with many revealing that they had come to get a test as soon as they heard about it.
Adil Shah, 42, a Transport for London manager said: ‘I left work so that I could come and get a test and the rest of my family are going to come later today.
‘I had Covid last year and news of this strain is very worrying. I’ve been taking all the precautions that I can, but you just never know what or who you might have come into contact with so it’s important for us all to get this test.’
Average waiting times in the queue were almost 45 minutes, with the actual test taking no longer than five minutes.
Coffee shop worker Alexandra Nagy, 28, said: ‘I’ve just slipped away from work after finding out about this. Of course, I’m worried because I live and work locally.
A team of volunteers are briefed this morning at Woking Fire Station before collecting bags of swab tests to deliver them to homes in homes in the St Johns and Goldsworth Park areas
Following guidance from Surrey County Council’s Health and Safety team, the volunteers delivered the swabs and told residents to leave them out for collection three hours later
‘The queue is getting longer and it’s going to get busier through the day so that’s why I thought I’d get here early.’
Officials have revealed that those who are unable to get to the testing centre will receive home testing kits, which they will start distributing from Wednesday.
Ben Chambers, 50, who had been waiting in the queue for more than 30 minutes said: ‘I know some elderly people and those who are shielding. It’s alright for the likes of me to come to this testing centre, but what about the others who can’t get out.
‘The Council need to make sure that everybody in the borough is tested not just those in the affected area. I’m sure the person who was found to have the South African strain didn’t just move around in one part of the borough.’
In Woking before starting the door to door tests to 9,000 homes in the St Johns and Goldsworth Park areas, volunteers were given a detailed safety briefing from a member of Surrey County Council’s Health and Safety team.
They were told to hand deliver the swab test kits and tell residents the swabs collected within three hours.
A drop box would be left on the doorstep and those tested to place the vial containing a swab into the box.
Volunteers were told not to handle the vials to avoid any possible infection from the mutant strain.
Among the first to receive a testing kit delivered to his front door was retired engineer David Woodhead.
The 75-year-old said he was more than happy to take part in the testing – but was worried that he lives in an area where the mutant South African strain has been found.
A volunteer dropped off the swab test kit in a sealed grey package. Inside was a swab and a mini test tube for the tips of the swab to be deposited.
David said: ‘This is a really good thing, and hopefully it will help root out this South African strain.
Mike Wallace, who is a South African living in Woking, Surrey, is helped to take the test in his front room by his wife Natasha. They were among 9,000 people in the area happy to be tested
Among the first to receive a testing kit delivered to his front door was retired engineer David Woodhead, 75, seen receiving his test this morning. He said testing was ‘a really good thing’
Despite the seriousness of the situation, one resident at a sheltered housing accommodation block attempted to lighten the mood by answering his front door wearing a clown mask
‘I’ve had one PCR test before when I had to go to Ashford Hospital for a MRI.
‘I have only been going out once a week to Sainsbury to do my shopping and have been staying inside. I’ll continue to stay indoors until this is all over.’
The streets around Mr Woodhead’s terraced home were deserted as residents heeded the earlier warning of Universities Minister Michelle Donelan to stay indoors.
Volunteers were going door to door in the to hand out PCR swab tests to as many as 9,000 people.
Until the testing has been completed residents have been urged to stay indoors and even avoid going out shopping by Universities Minister Michelle Donelan.
Trevor Martin,70, was one of the few people walking through the St Johns area having visited a local store.
He said:’ I’m quite happy to stay indoors. No one wants to get this virus. I’ve just popped out to get some essential food from a store.
‘I think most people will stick to the rules. We all have to play along and do out part.’
Another resident, who popped outside of her home to smoke a cigarette, said she would happily stay indoors until the mutant strain has been wiped out.
‘We have come so far it is silly to catch the virus now. I have been in a bubble with an 80 year old and all her shopping is done online by a friend.
People in Southport, Merseyside, queued up for an hour in the rain only to be disappointed when they were told that the South African test kits were not available until tomorrow
‘If I can avoid going out I will. Two weeks or so is not a long time and we are so used to being in lockdown in doesn’t matter that much.’
About 30 people were in the first wave of volunteers going door to door in St Johns. Others will follow after being given a health and safety briefing.
In Sutton Place, one of the first roads to be targeted, the street was eerily quiet.
The only sound came from distant shotguns being fired at the Bisley shooting range.
Residents peered out from their windows as the volunteers in high viz jackets went door to door.