You know all those boring graphs Boris and Co show on TV when we get our Covid briefings?

OH (other half) and I have been contributing to those numbers for the past four months.

Last November we received a letter inviting us to take part in the Covid-19 infection survey, run by the University of Oxford and the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which is used to inform the government and the British public.

It involved someone coming to our home (they stay on the doorstep and are well masked), getting us to do a swab test for Covid-19 and asking us questions.  We felt it was our civic duty to take part and of course said yes.

It was the first time we had ever done a swab test.  To our surprise the swab was miniscule and we had no difficulty sticking it down our throats and up our noses.  But the questions took forever. Who had we been in contact with?  No one. Who had been in our house? No one. Had we been abroad. No.  Did we go shopping? No.  How much time did we spend in each other’s company? 24/7!  Had we had a vaccine? No – there was no vaccine!

The first visits were once a week for a month. Now they are once a month.  We see a different person every time. The questions and answers have more or less remained the same, except now we can answer ‘yes’ to the vaccine question. Way back last November the idea of there ever being a vaccine was just wishful thinking.

The questioners are different people each time.  The last one we met was on furlough from her career in finance.

The swabs change each time.  I don’t think it’s deliberate policy – more a change in suppliers – but with each visit they have got bigger and bigger!  It’s amazing what you can get used to over time! We look forward to the visits as it’s rare contact with another human being.

What’s more – and this really surprised us – we get paid for taking part!

£50 each for the first visit and £25 each time after that.  It’s quite a clever system because one gets paid in vouchers which can be spent in shops or online.  The  choice of where we can spend them ranges widely from Amazon to a large number of well known supermarkets and retailers. It’s clever because it means that the money we receive goes back into the system.  We sometimes have used it to donate to the various charities we support. We have also bought food and then donated it to a food bank.  Occasionally we “treat” ourselves to books.

I guess the payment was made to encourage people to take part. There are thousands of people cooperating in this survey. Think of all the money that is going back into the system. Helping to keep the economy going.

A few days after we have been tested we receive a letter through the post telling us the result.   So far It has always been negative – thank goodness.  And a few days later we receive an email offering us our voucher.

The information ONS receives goes to inform the numbers that are reported every day. So we feel – with or without getting paid for it – that we are doing our bit.

We have signed up for a year so I imagine we will continue to be tested until the autumn. It’s one way of finding out –  not only who has/hasn’t had the virus – but also how effective the vaccination programme has been. For more information, please see the government links below.

Stay safe and keep well.

© Andrea Neidle. My Life in Poems


  1. Very interesting Andrea. I think I considered doing this but (for reasons I cannot recall) decided against it. Keep on doing the good ‘civic’ work, and enjoy the books too!

    Liked by 1 person

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