UK Covid: ‘I tried to get lateral flow tests in London and had to go to 10 pharmacies’

With cases rising after Christmas celebrations, many of us across the UK have been struggling to get ahold of the rapid tests.

More than 183,000 cases were confirmed in the UK on Wednesday – many of them likely the Omicron variant – and this means more and more of us are rushing out to pharmacies to pick up a box of lateral flow tests.

I took to the streets of South West London to see for myself exactly how difficult it would be to get some tests.

READ MORE: Number of patients with virus in hospital at highest level since February

Starting my journey at Aura Pharmacy on Inner Park Road in Wandsworth, I was quickly greeted at the front door with a large handwritten sign saying that they were out of tests.

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The next nearest pharmacy was located at the end of a 15-minute walk downhill near Southfields station.

There, I found a small cluster of three pharmacies, two independent and one owned by Boots.

Unfortunately, it was the same story at all three.

From there, I headed over to Durnsford Road and then another right to Arthur Road, again passing by three more pharmacies that were all out.

I continued walking southbound for about 25 minutes before arriving at Wimbledon village, where I found another pharmacy.

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The search for home test kits was disheartening at times

By this point, I had already walked for around an hour and was already very tired, but when I got another “no sorry we’ve run out” at the counter, I decided to push on towards Wimbledon town centre.

I found a chemist just before reaching Wimbledon station, where once again I was disappointed to see a sign on the window informing me that they too were out of stock.

At this point, I was starting to think my search for a home test kit was going to be futile. If a pharmacy in the town centre doesn’t have it, who does?

Now desperately worrying that I would not be able to test myself for Covid before attending a family gathering for New Year’s Eve, I decided to walk in and ask the pharmacist if they knew anyone who might have a few home test kits left over.

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Some pharmacies appeared to have printed notices that had been handed out by the NHS

They told me to try looking in the Centre Court shopping mall by the station, which in recent months has been housing a makeshift vaccination centre run by the NHS.

I’d already been to nine pharmacies by this point and had come out of each of them empty-handed.

I was exhausted by my walk and was running short on time before I had to return to work for an afternoon meeting, so the vaccination centre was my last shot.

Putting my mask on, I stepped into the centre and approached a member of staff to ask if they had any.

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Even pharmacies in the town centre were out-of-stock

They could probably hear how disheartened I was in the tone of my voice, and I had already halfway turned my shoulders to leave before even giving them the chance to answer.

To my surprise, however, I was informed that they did indeed have plenty of home test kits in stock.

Not only that, but they gave me a large box of 20 tests instead of the usual seven.

Ever so grateful, I thanked the staff and left.

It honestly felt like I was waving around a bar of gold and screaming at people to rob me.

After hiding my treasure, I marched off towards the station and headed home with an air of triumph.

In total, I’d been in and out of nine pharmacies before finally arriving at the centre that was able to give me my kit.

I walked around an hour and a half and covered about 3.5 miles on foot in that time.

So, at least in this corner of South West London, lateral flow tests aren’t completely out-of-stock, but they are extremely hard to find.

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